Sporting vs Arsenal: Europa League – LIVE!
Arsenal turn their attention to the Europa League tonight as they travel to face Sporting in the first leg of their last-16 tie. The Gunners topped their group before Christmas, giving them a bye through to this round, and now come up against Sporting, who dropped down after finishing third in their Champions League group.
Confidence could not be much higher for Arsenal, who continue to lead the way in the Premier League. Mikel Arteta is unlikely to make too many changes, particularly with the likes of Kieran Tierney and Eddie Nketiah out injured, but Emile Smith Rowe could make a first start of the season.
Sporting took four points from their two Champions League matches against Tottenham earlier in the campaign, and will know they really need to pick up a positive result here to take to the Emirates next week. Follow all the action with Standard Sport’s LIVE blog below, featuring expert analysis from Simon Collings at the ground.
Last time out…
Difficult to forget, but for those who have here’s a reminder of what happened the last time Arsenal were in action.
Conceded after nine seconds, fell 2-0 down to Bournemouth, pulled it back to 2-2, scored in the 97th minute to win it, chaos at the Emirates, five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
That just about sums it up.
Arteta: Both competitions a priority
Mikel Arteta believes the best way for Arsenal to maintain momentum in the title race is by going on a run in the Europa League.
Arsenal are currently five points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League and now have to contend with midweek European football returning.
The Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup in January by Manchester City and that started a run of four games without a win.
“Our priority is the two competitions,” said Arteta. “Obviously, we have to earn the right to continue in this competition to get as far as we want and we’re going to face a really difficult opponent.
“The best way to prepare for any competition is to win the previous match and having the confidence and the proper emotion to approach the next game. If we play well and we are able to win the game, that will better prepare us for the next one.”
The Smith is back…
Emile Smith Rowe came on early against Bournemouth and was then brought off in the second-half, with Arsenal not wanting to push him too far on his return from injury.
It’s been an incredibly frustrating season for Smith Rowe so far, playing a total of 104 minutes in the Premier League and he’s yet to start a competitive match.
That could change tonight, with his return to full fitness a big boost for the Gunners.
How Martinelli reignited Arsenal’s season
Dropped or rested, call it what you want, but ever since Gabriel Martinelli was left out of the Arsenal team just over two weeks ago he has been reborn.
Martinelli was named on the bench for Arsenal’s match at Aston Villa, but came on to score in stoppage time and complete a 4-2 comeback. The Brazilian has started all three of the next games since, taking his tally to four goals in as many matches.
Martinelli’s return to form is timely. He has reignited Arsenal’s title charge and now Mikel Arteta will be hoping the 21-year-old can have the same impact in the Europa League tonight.
Arteta is light on forward options, as Eddie Nketiah (ankle) and Leandro Trossard (groin) are both out. Gabriel Jesus trained yesterday, but he has not played since having knee surgery in December. It leaves Martinelli as the prime candidate to lead the line.
Read Simon Collings’ full piece here
Standard Sport prediction
While it’s unlikely to be a full-strength Arsenal side, it’s simply too hard to see them losing a game right now, particularly when playing with the kind of belief that saw them beat Bournemouth late on.
Sporting will know they have to get some sort of positive result tonight to give them a realistic chance next week at the Emirates, but a draw might be as good as it gets for them.
Arsenal team news
Arsenal have Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Kieran Tierney on the sidelines tonight..
Midfielder Mohamed Elneny is also out of the trip to Portugal with a knee injury, but it is unclear at this stage if Gabriel Jesus is match fit and in the squad.
Nketiah and Trossard’s absences mean that Gabriel Martinelli may have to lead the line, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe likely to play either side of him. Reiss Nelson, who scored the winner at the weekend against Bournemouth, is also pushing to start.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner should come in for Aaron Ramsdale, while Takehiro Tomiyasu may start in the absence of Tierney through illness.
Jorginho is due to replace Thomas Partey at the base of midfield and Granit Xhaka is primed to play after being rested against Bournemouth.
Arsenal predicted XI (4-3-3): Turner; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tomiyasu; Odegaard, Jorginho, Xhaka; Saka, Martinelli, Smith Rowe
Sporting team news
The major absentee for Sporting is midfielder Manuel Ugarte, who sits out through suspension along with Daniel Braganca in a huge blow for the hosts.
Hector Bellerin will be hoping to feature at some point against his former club tonight.
How to watch Sporting vs Arsenal
TV channel: The game will be broadcast live on BT Sport 2 in the UK. Coverage gets underway at 5:15pm.
Live stream: Subscribers can watch on a live stream across mobile devices, laptops, games consoles and more through either the BT Sport website or app.
LIVE coverage: Follow all the action right here with us, featuring expert analysis from Simon Collings at the ground.
Hello and welcome to Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of Sporting vs Arsenal!
It’s the first leg of the Europa League last-16 tie, as the Gunners try and replicate their Premier League form on the European stage. Safe to say confidence is high for Mikel Arteta’s side.
We’ll have all the latest updates, build-up and team news ahead of kick-off, which comes at 5:45pm GMT from the Estadio Jose Alvalade.