By Bulldog Drummond
There are so many stories queuing up for publication at the moment (including one about what the FA does with its charity money, a subject which Untold has been campaigning on for years) that it is hard for me to book a space to do the regular previews.
But here we go – we are (if we can for a moment move away from the naughty activities (alleged) of Manchester City) going to play Sporting in the Europa tomorrow (Thursday). And of course the regulars will be there.
So, to remind you what’s what in our group, it goes like this…
All quite healthy so far. A win gives us qualification, and then one more point would be needed from the last two would ensure we win the group, although not to win the section from that point would require Sporting to win their last two matches, and Arsenal to lose their last two – with both Sporting and Arsenal playing Vorskla Poltava and Qarabag.
You might think that is possible, I think it is stretching it a bit.
Our old chams, the nutters at Football London have said in one of their 40 a day posts this week that, “the Portuguese giants know victory at the Emirates on Thursday night is vital in terms of their hopes of topping Group E.”
I am not really sure that they are giants at the moment, nor that they seriously have hopes of topping the group. But of course Foot Lond will say anything if it adds to the word count between the adverts.
But anyway, a win tonight would make life very comfortable and allow Mr Emery, should he wish to, to let one or two more younger players onto the pitch for the final matches. More time for Smith Rowe (who might also get a go on Thursday), and maybe even, finally, a return of the long lost and now hard to spot, Eddie.
Sporting Lisbon have had a pretty awful time of things since going down at home to us a couple of weeks back when Danny scored, not least in relation to the fact that Jose Peseiro was sacked at the end of last week.
Some of those who are in the know (or claim they are) say that former Ajax manager Marcel Keizer has been appointed to replace him, or will be appointed after the game on Thursday. One or the other (or maybe both).
Following on from our game against them they have had these results…
|25/10/18||Europa||Sporting CP||0 – 1||Arsenal|
|28/10/18||League||Sporting CP||3 – 0||Boavista|
|31/10/18||Lge Cup||Sporting CP||1 – 2||Estoril|
|04/11/18||League||Santa Clara||1 – 2||Sporting CP|
Santa Clara is a team in the Portuguese League that plays in the Azores and are not considered to be one of the topmost clubs in the league. Estoril were promoted to the top division a few years ago – both teams play in relatively small stadia – Estoril have a capacity of just over 8000 for example.
Boavista returned to the top division in 2014 after a period in the second and third divisions. A club with some history but still not one at the moment at the top of their game – I think their highest finish has been 9th of late.
So not the toughest of tests of Sporting apart from against these teams and the defeat to Estoril was something of interest.
And just to make matters worse one of their key players – Battaglia who plays in midfield – has an injury that is said to keep him out for the rest of the season. Elsewhere there are reports saying that Stefan Ristovski and Rafinha are also out injured and that the club is in such a bad way they are having to use academy players to make up the numbers in training.
Except that Arsenal often have academy players in training sessions, so maybe it is not that bad. It sounds to me a bit like one of Arry the Red’s old comments about having so few players he was having to play himself.
But all the preliminary info we have suggests this should not be a game that we might worry about, and indeed with a bit of luck we might actually knock in a few goals to warm us up as it appears we have late autumn weather now really settling in.
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