Unai Emery insists Arsenal are going to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon determined to win the Europa League.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Unai Emery called on Arsenal to keep up their high-scoring form when they step out at the Estadio Jose Alvalade stadium on Thursday evening.
“We want the balance,” Emery said. “The balance to score a lot and not concede a lot of goals, but for me, the individual goalscoring statistics for the players is very important, as it is for the supporters to be excited with many things on the pitch.
“Scoring goals is important for this spectacle and with this balance, we want to score a lot with different players.
“I want our strikers to have a lot of chances to score but also to find the balance defensively.”
Winning the tournament three times in a row when he was manager of Sevilla, Emery needs no one to tell him the importance of this competition.
“I developed a lot individually in this competition,” he said. “In my career also I look at a lot of teams how they do the commitment, how they can find this other performance in this competition.
“I think this competition for every team is very important because first, it is a title to play for and for other teams when you win this competition you go to the Champions League.
“For us at Arsenal, I am telling every player, the supporters and the club for me it is very important also because it is one title a way to go to the Champions League next year.
“We are here to play to win, to find all the titles that are in the way and this is one with a very high, high level in every team like Sporting CP and in this competition every year there are a lot of teams with the same idea to find here one title and I think the level now is very, very high in this competition.”
With maximum points from their opening two fixtures in UEFA Europa League Group E, Sporting CP and Arsenal already have the round of 32 in their sights as they go head to head in Lisbon.
Arsenal have run up seven goals – the joint highest tally in the competition, alongside Group A’s Bayer Leverkusen – in beating Vorskla Poltava at home (4-2) and Qarabağ away (3-0).
Sporting followed their opening 2-0 home win against the champions of Azerbaijan by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with two late goals at Vorskla (2-1).
Despite the clubs’ considerable European pedigree, they have never met in UEFA competition. They did, however, come face to face in the 1969/70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup second round, with Arsenal winning 3-0 on aggregate (0-0 away, 3-0 home) en route to lifting the trophy.
Sporting’s 21 UEFA fixtures against English clubs have yielded nine wins and nine defeats, seven of the victories at home including both of their previous engagements in the UEFA Europa League – 3-0 against Everton in the 2009/10 round of 32 and 1-0 versus Manchester City in the 2011/12 round of 16, the Lisbon club winning both ties.
Arsenal have never won in five UEFA visits to Portugal (D2 L3), scoring just two goals – both, curiously, by a player called Campbell (striker Kevin against Benfica in the 1991/92 European Champion Clubs’ Cup; defender Sol against Porto in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League).
- Sporting finished third in the 2017/18 Portuguese Liga. They suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Aves in the Portuguese Cup final, but nevertheless claimed a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage.
- The Lisbon club have been regular participants in the UEFA Europa League since its inception in 2009/10, featuring in the competition proper in seven previous seasons and the group stage in five of those, most recently in 2015/16.
- Semi-finalists in 2011/12, they reached the quarter-finals last season after transferring from the UEFA Champions League group stage.
- Sporting have won all of their last three European home games without conceding. They have only ever lost once at home in the UEFA Europa League group stage and twice in the competition proper, their overall record in Lisbon standing at W18 D8 L2.
The Gunners finished sixth in the 2017/18 Premier League – their lowest final placing under Arsène Wenger in his swansong season as manager after 22 years. It earned them a second successive qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 successive seasons until last term, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt, going out to eventual winners Atlético Madrid.
The 1999/2000 UEFA Cup runners-up won 1-0 away at Crvena zvezda on matchday three last season to make it nine points out of nine. Their away record in the UEFA Europa League is W5 D1 L2, with 15 goals scored and just five conceded.
Links and trivia
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno helped Bayer Leverkusen inflict a rare UEFA Europa League home defeat on Sporting in the 2015/16 round of 16, winning 1-0 in Lisbon and then 3-1 in Germany to eliminate the Portuguese club.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, now team-mates at Arsenal, played together in a 2-1 win for Borussia Dortmund at Sporting in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage, the Gabon forward scoring one of the goals.
Sporting trio Nani (Manchester United), Sebastián Coates (Liverpool, Sunderland) and Radosav Petrović (Blackburn) have all faced Arsenal in the Premier League, Nani winning the competition four times and scoring a memorable goal against the Gunners in a famous 8-2 win at Old Trafford in August 2011.
Coates and Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira are Uruguayan internationals; Torreira is also a former team-mate of Sporting’s Bruno Fernandes (Sampdoria, 2016/17).
Jérémy Mathieu (Sporting) and Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) have played together for France.
A UEFA Cup runner-up as Sporting CP coach in 2004/05, José Peseiro returned to the club in the summer of 2018 as the replacement for Jorge Jesus. A lower-league forward, he was Carlos Queiroz’s assistant at Real Madrid prior to his first spell at Sporting and later took charge of several European and Middle Eastern clubs as well as coaching the Saudi Arabia national side from 2009–11. His last European involvement was with Braga in the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League.
His last European involvement was with Braga in the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League.
After two years with Paris Saint-Germain that yielded seven domestic trophies, Unai Emery was appointed as Arsenal manager in May 2018, replacing the long-serving Wenger.
The Spaniard oversaw Sevilla’s historic hat-trick of successes in the UEFA Europa League from 2013/14 to 2015/16, having assumed control following a four-year tenure at Valencia and a brief stint at Spartak Moskva.
He has been in charge of more UEFA Europa League games than any other coach.