Sporting vs Arsenal – Analysis, Prediction, Team News
Thursday 9th March 2023
Estadio Jose Alvalade
As part of our Europa League Predictions, we take a look at Arsenal’s visit to Lisbon. Sporting have struggled at home against the big sides generally with the exception of Braga and Spurs – can Arsenal win here? Read on with our Sporting vs Arsenal prediction.
Sporting (EL and CL)
Sporting vs Arsenal Match Preview
Sporting dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in Group D of the Champions League. The Portuguese club had a chance of qualifying on the last day but lost 2-1 at home to Frankfurt (Spurs finished top and Marseille bottom). They were then paired with Danish side Midtjylland in the Europa League play-off round. The first leg was a 1-1 draw where the Danes almost won in the Alvalade (Coates equalised in injury time). There was uncertainty around Sporting, but they emphatically won the return leg 4-0, with a Goncalves brace being part of the goals.
Domestically, Sporting have been doing well. The club have won six of their previous seven games in the Primeira Liga. However, their placement in the table overall is disappointing – they are in fourth, and a massive 15 points behind city rivals Benfica. They have won nine of eleven home league games this season but could only take three points from nine in their three Champions League home games, including two defeats.
Arsenal emphatically won Group A, winning five games. This run allowed the club to sit out the play-off round and qualify directly to this last 16 tie. However, the one blemish in their campaign was the 2-0 loss away to PSV Eindhoven (the group also included Bodo/Glimt and Zurich). This match indicated that against good opposition, Arsenal won’t always have it all their own way.
In the Premier League, Arsenal are riding high at the top. The Gunners have won all of their last four games, including comebacks with last-minute winners against Aston Villa and Bournemouth, in games which tested their resolve. Therefore, the London club are the mix to win their first league title since 2004. Man City are chasing them, but they have a five-point lead. Hence, for this game with Sporting, it is difficult to predict just how strong Arsenal will line up. They may rotate, given that the stakes are so high domestically.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might Not Play:
Will Not Play: Braganca
Might Not Play: Nketiah
Will Not Play: Elneny, Trossard, Jesus
Sporting vs Arsenal Lineups (Predicted)
Sporting CP (3-4-2-1 / 3-4-3): Adan; Inacio, Coates, Diomande; Santos, Morita, Ugarte, Esgaio; Goncalves, Edwards; Paulinho
Arsenal (4-3-3): Turner; Tierney, Kiwior, Saliba, Tomiyasu; Jorginho, Xhaka, Vieira; Nelson, Martinelli, Saka
Sporting vs Arsenal Analysis
Both Teams Like To Control Possession
Midfield will likely be a key area in this match, and both these sides like to dominate the ball. Indeed, Sporting have averaged 62 per cent possession in the league, and Arsenal have had the ball 60 per cent of the time. At the risk of sounding like a Premier League elitist, there is no doubt that it is more impressive to dominate games in England than in Portugal. This statement is not to be disparaging – the Primeira Liga is an excellent league. However, England has better teams generally, outside of the Portuguese big three. Therefore, we would usually anticipate Arsenal having more of the ball in this game. Despite this, Sporting could have moments when they are the team in control.
Nonetheless, there are unknown factors which could cast doubt on the above. The main one is what team Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta will select. If he goes near full strength, then Arsenal having 60 or even 65 per cent of the ball is possible. If he rotates, this logically gives Sporting more chance to control and win the game. Much will depend on whether Odegaard starts – anyone who reads our Arsenal previews knows we are big fans of the Norwegian playmaker. His passing, dribbling, pressing, recoveries, and football brain are all excellent. He connects Arsenal and sets their tone. We think he will be rested. Hence, Sporting might have more of the ball than first thought.
How Can Both Sides Attack?
With the pattern of the game likely being Arsenal having more of the ball but not to an overwhelming degree, Sporting will probably play more on transition. There will be moments when the home team can dominate and play through the Arsenal lines. However, generally, they’ll likely soak up pressure from Arsenal with their back three or five and hit on the break. Ugarte and Morita are vital in the midfield. They can win the ball from Jorginho or Xhaka and look to feed Edwards and Goncalves.
The two wingers-cum-attacking midfielders are dangerous players for Sporting. Both possess an abundance of creativity, passing, and dribbling abilities and are fast and nippy to go along with these qualities. They will look to cut inside the Arsenal full-backs, come on to the centre-backs, or take shots at goals. They will also try to cross for Paulinho to finish in the box. This game could be an examination for Arsenal backup goalkeeper Turner. Sporting coach Ruben Amorim will want him to be tested.
As stated, Arsenal will likely take the game to Sporting. Therefore, if they do play a comparatively weaker (but still quality) team, Tierney and Tomiyasu must show initiative and get forward from full-back. The Sporting full-backs will provide overlaps and supplement the attack, so the Arsenal ones must do this too. In midfield, Vieira might get a start. He is good at joining the attack and possesses trickery and the ability to run with the ball. Nelson might get a start wide-left and must attack Esgaio. Saka needs some rest, but Arteta might start him; he is a talisman for Arsenal. His dribbling and directness on the right wing will be crucial as ever if he starts.
In general, Arsenal must not take Sporting lightly here. Arsenal are performing well domestically but cannot go to Portugal and underestimate their opposition. They must be professional and look to play their usual mixture of control with incisiveness, knowing when to speed up the play to try to carve Sporting apart. If things aren’t going well, Odegaard may be introduced (if he does not start) to give the Gunners more control and penetration in attacking areas.
Sporting can give most teams a game on their day, but they can also be poor as they are the sort of side that is somewhat Jekyll and Hyde sometimes – certainly in Europe. Much also will depend on what kind of team Arteta sends out – if he plays a significantly weaker team, he is obviously prioritising the league, which will encourage Sporting and give them a lift before kick-off.
We believe Arsenal will play a mixture of first-choice players and backups, which is reflected in our predicted lineup. Arsenal have a drop-off outside their first eleven, and they need to rest players, as some players have played weekly. However, we anticipate them still playing a side which can come to Portugal and get a result. Sporting will likely be well in the game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them get a draw. However, we will go for a narrow Arsenal victory to take back to the Emirates next week.
Sporting 1-2 Arsenal
Sporting vs Arsenal Betting Tip – Arsenal Odds:
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