- Sporting v Arsenal: tackles, fouls and cards – what Arsenal can expect
- Sporting CP v Arsenal in the Europa. Bellerin, and Sporting chances
By Bulldog Drummond
Arsenal are currently facing four injury issues. Gabriel Jesus is said to be about ten days away from a return. Eddie Nketiah is considered as having a 50/50 chance of playing in tonight’s game following recovery from an ankle injury (or maybe that is a foot injury – or maybe both – reports differ), Leandro Trossard is said to have a muscular injury and is “being assessed” and of course, Mo Elney is out for the long term, although said to be approaching “early stages of rehab.”
Sporting meanwhile might well be expecting to get through this stage of the competition, since they normally do just that. And to be fair, in 1964 they did actually win the Cup Winners Cup, – but that was almost sixty years ago, so not too many people remember that.
On the other hand, Arsenal enter this match having won the group stages and avoided that pesky extra round which included those relegated from the Champions League. All very satisfactory so far. And the psychological conditions within the club couldn’t be better, not only from being top of the league but also having shown their “never say die” credentials against Bournemouth. That win might be enough to earn Reiss Nelson a place in the team tonight, and the possibility of a new contract (his ends at the end of this season).
Arsenal don’t have a long-term glorious record in the Europa but they have never failed at the round of 16 stage.
Arsenal have played Sporting four times, although under different names. In 1969 the competition was the second round of the Fairs Cup, where Arsenal played “Sporting Lisboa”, getting a goalless draw in Portugal and then winning 3-0
Leaping forward to modern times Arsenal played Sporting Clube Portugal (same club, different name) in the then renamed Uefa Europa League in 2018. On 25 October that year Arsenal won away 0-1 but then could only draw at home 0-0.
As we have seen Sporting are currently fourth in the league, 15 points behind the league leaders after 23 games. In English terms that would leave them third or fourth, somewhere around the level of Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur – but on the other hand the Portuguese league is nowhere near as strong as the Premier League. Mind you, nor is Tottenham.
If we look at the Portuguese league this century we can see that although Sporting won the league in 2000 and again in 2002, their victory in 2021 was their first since then. Otherwise, in the last ten years Porto have won the league four times and Benfica five times. Sporting were last season’s runners-up but as we have seen are currently languishing in fourth.
And indeed in eight of the last ten years, they have made it into the top three in the league. Incidentally, there was a time when we used to laugh at little European leagues in which the same club always won, but in fact in the Premier League Manchester City has won it five times in the last ten seasons. In the Premier League the remaining titles have been won by Chelsea (twice), Liverpolol, Leicester City, and Manchester United.
We can also present a league table for the six games of Arsenal and Sporting by way of comparison…
This compares with the Premier League last six
So although Arsenal have accumulated on 13 points to Sporting’s 15, Arsenal are third in a much tougher league in recent matches. All things considered, Arsenal should be ok, but as the media so often tell us, these foreign teams can get up to no good on occasion and can sometimes be rather pesky blighters.
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