Sporting CP’s interim coach, Tiago Fernandes, is aiming to secure victory of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night when the two sides face each other in the UEFA Europa League group match.
Arsenal go into the game top of the group having won all their games. Victory on Thursday night will seal qualification for the knock-out stages for Arsenal.
Sporting are not turning up just to roll over, however, with their interim manager targeting victory. “As manager of Sporting, every game you play with this team is to win,” Tiago Fernandes said. “I do what the chairman has asked me and tomorrow I will do the same as I have throughout the week. I have had help from the players.
“That motivates me and I have happiness to represent this team in the competition and to manage players with this quality.”
Arsenal will be without:
Out: Elneny (thigh), Koscielny (Achilles) Mavropanos (groin)
Doubtful: Nacho Monreal (hamstring), Papastathopoulos (ankle)
Sporting CP will be without:
Raphinha (unknown injury), Stefan Ristovski (thigh), Rodrigo Battaglia (cruciate), and Stefano Sturaro (muscle injury).
With maximum points from their opening three fixtures in UEFA Europa League Group E, Arsenal already have the round of 32 firmly in their sights as they seek to complete the double over the second-placed side in the section, Sporting CP. A repeat win would guarantee the Gunners’ place in the round of 32, while a draw would do if Vorskla
Poltava lose at home to point-less Qarabağ.
Arsenal have beaten all three of their group rivals, opening up with a 4-2 success at home to Vorskla before posting back-to-back away wins at Qarabağ (3-0) and Sporting (1-0), Danny Welbeck driving home the late winner in Lisbon.
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 had never met in UEFA competition until matchday three.
They did, however, come face to face in the 1969/70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup second round, Arsenal winning 3-0 on aggregate (0-0 away, 3-0 home) en route to lifting the trophy.
Sporting’s 22 UEFA fixtures against English clubs have yielded nine wins and ten defeats. They have won just twice in 11 visits to England (D2 L7) and have failed to win any of their last six matches in the country (D1 L5).
Arsenal had never won in five previous UEFA visits to Portugal until their 25 October victory (D2 L3), but at home they have won their last four matches against Portuguese visitors, scoring 17 goals without reply.
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 also had nine points out of nine on their UEFA Europa League debut last term before their perfect record ended on matchday four with a 0-0 draw at home to Crvena zvezda. Their UEFA Europa League record in London is W5 D2 L1, with 22 goals scored and eight conceded, but they have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last five home fixtures in the competition.
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’s UEFA Europa League group stage record away from Lisbon is W6 D1 L9. They have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 30 European away fixtures, since beating FC Zürich 2-0 on matchday one of the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League group stage.
Links and trivia
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno helped Bayer Leverkusen defeat Sporting twice in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League round of 16, winning 1-0 in Lisbon and 3-1 in Germany to eliminate the Portuguese club.
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).
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) and Jérémy Mathieu (Sporting) have played together for France.
Arsenal are one of six clubs with maximum points from the opening three UEFA Europa League fixtures, the others being Zürich (Group A), Salzburg (B), Dinamo Zagreb (D), Eintracht Frankfurt (H) and Chelsea (L).
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.
Appointed as caretaker to replace recently dismissed coach José Peseiro, Tiago Fernandes is the son of Sporting CP legend Manuel Fernandes and had a modest playing career as a midfielder before becoming a scout and assistant to his father at UD Leiria and Vitória FC. He joined Sporting as a youth coach in 2012 and led the Under-19s to the Portuguese title in 2016/17, the same season they took part in the UEFA Youth League group stage, becoming an assistant to Peseiro at the start of this season.
- Gediminas Mažeika (LTU)
- Vytautas Šimkus (LTU)
- Vytenis Kazlauskas (LTU)
Additional assistant referees
- Manfredas Lukjancukas (LTU)
- Robertas Valikonis (LTU)
- Dovydas Sužiedėlis (LTU)