Arsenal are looking to extend their winning streak to five games in all competitions, while Sporting CP will be out to cause a minor upset in the first leg of this Europa League last-16 tie.
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Sporting CP vs Arsenal predictions
What a way to win a run-of-the-mill Premier League game.
Arsenal fans feared the worst when their team went 2-0 down to Bournemouth on Saturday. A seemingly straightforward assignment suddenly looked like anything but.
In the end, everything worked out for the Gunners. Goals from Thomas Partey and Ben White levelled things up at 2-2, before Reiss Nelson notched a dramatic winner deep into second-half stoppage time.
It was the most dramatic of denouements, sending players, management and supporters into delirium.
Some have questioned whether this kind of dramatic, chaotic victory might actually harm Arsenal’s Premier League title tilt, but being able to respond to adversity is a sign of champions.
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The question now is how seriously Mikel Arteta will take the Europa League as they seek to hold off Manchester City back home.
Will Arsenal use Thursday’s game as a chance to rest some of his key men ahead of this weekend’s clash with Fulham?
Or will they go all-out for victory in Lisbon in a bid to maintain momentum and keep confidence high?
Given they beat Bournemouth last time out, the latter is more likely. Had they dropped points to the relegation candidates, Arsenal might choose this as the moment to give up on their Europa League ambitions.
But given they have a five-point buffer at the summit of the standings, the Gunners will probably play a strong side against Sporting CP.
Sporting CP vs Arsenal betting tips
Sporting CP are not enjoying the best of campaigns domestically, but Arsenal should not take anything for granted at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Arsenal to win – 11/10 (bet365)
Arsenal do not have the deepest squad in Europe, but the January additions of Jorginho, Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior have at least provided Arteta with a few more options.
The Gunners boss was able to give Granit Xhaka a rare rest at the weekend, while Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced White in the XI.
Kieran Tierney has at times deputised for Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, albeit with a very different interpretation of the role.
Eddie Nketiah was initially the go-to replacement for the injured Gabriel Jesus, but Trossard has been called upon in recent weeks.
Arteta is now able to make two or three changes to his XI without significantly weakening it, although the likes of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes are tough to replace.
A trip to Sporting CP will certainly not be easy, but the Portuguese side are not enjoying their best season.
Currently fourth in the Primeira Liga, Ruben Amorim’s men trail Benfica in first place by 15 points. They face an uphill battle to finish in the top three, something Sporting usually take for granted.
Over 2.5 goals – Evens (bet365)
Arsenal edged out Leicester City 1-0 in a recent Premier League fixture, as their opponents mustered a single shot at the King Power Stadium.
However, that was a uniquely low-key game of those the Gunners have contested over the last three weeks.
Their five matches in that time have yielded a total 20 goals. If you take out the win at Leicester, that comes to an average of 4.75 per match.
It is hard to see Thursday’s encounter being quite as dramatic and entertaining as the triumph over Bournemouth.
That is largely because at the end of the 90 minutes on Thursday, we will only be at the midway point of the tie.
Sporting demonstrated their own attacking credentials with a 4-0 thumping of Midtjylland in the second leg of their knockout round play-off last month.
To stand a realistic chance of progressing to the quarter-finals, they will probably need to take an aggregate advantage to the Emirates Stadium next week.
Sporting therefore have an incentive to go on the attack on Thursday, but Arsenal have the quality to punish their hosts if they are given too much space in transition.
Bukayo Saka to score anytime – 12/5 (bet365)
Arsenal fans are divided on who their most important player is.
Arguments can be made for Odegaard, Partey, Zinchenko and Aaron Ramsdale, but Saka has as strong a claim to that title as any.
That is reflected in his permanent presence in the XI for Premier League games this term. Saka has started 26 matches out of 26, missing only 89 minutes in the top flight.
Arteta took him out of the team in four of Arsenal’s six Europa League group games, and there is a danger of that happening again on Thursday.
But given that this is both the away leg and the first leg, Saka is more likely to start this week and then be rotated out of the side for the return fixture.
Even if he is on the bench at kick-off, there is a good chance that Arteta will turn to the England international at some point – unless Arsenal are a few goals up and cruising.
Saka is Arsenal’s penalty-taker and he poses a significant threat from open play too. A reliable finisher and sound decision-maker, he plays with a maturity that belies his status as a young player.
How to watch Sporting CP vs Arsenal
- Location: Estadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal.
- Date and time: Thursday 9 March 2023, 5.45pm.
- How to watch: BT Sport 2.
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