Sporting CP Preview: Rotations Imminent
Sporting CP play hosts to Mikel Arteta’s men at the Jose Alvalade Stadium this evening. Arsenal, still basking in the euphoria of their enthralling win over Bournemouth last weekend will need to focus on another elite competition, the Europa League, that offers the Gunners a chance of a trophy this season. With the Premier League being the priority this season, Arteta has stated that he wants to compete on both fronts,
“We have one team, and we have to play all the games with the best possible players to win them. At this moment we have made eight changes [in the competition] so we try to accommodate.
“We have certain players where we don’t know if they will last 60, 70 or 90 minutes. We have to be really good at maintaining the quality and the balance in the team, as well as the threat to be as competitive as we can for the 95 or 96 minutes the game is going to last.
“As well, players have moments in the season where they are available or not available, and tomorrow it will be the same case, but for sure, we will try to put the most competitive team together to win the game.”
The Europa League game against Sporting CP will give us a chance to offer minutes to a couple of players itching for action to contribute to the cause. Matt Turner has been the Cup keeper for the entirety of the campaign with Aaron Ramsdale filling in when he had some injury troubles. With the American goalie fully fit again, I will expect him to stand between the sticks tonight. His last outing in the FA Cup fourth round was as far back as January, and he performed very well that night.
The defense is expected to have wholesale changes, with Kieran Tierney odds on to get the nod ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko tonight. For a first team regular like Tierney, this season must have been really difficult for him, losing his place to the Ukrainian, but Zinchenko offers Arsenal so much more than just featuring as a left back. While Tierney provides the traditional width operating from the byline, Zinchenko drifts into the heart of the midfield and shows his class in building attacks from that location. On the other flank, Takehiro Tomiyasu is another first team player that has lost his place to Ben White, even though both players have shuffled consistently in recent weeks.
In center back, I am hoping to see Jakub Kiwior play for the first time, as he’s due for an appearance in the famous Red and White. Prior to joining Arsenal, he played consistent first team football for Spezia, starting in 17 consecutive matches, till he was benched in January following speculation of a move out of the club, which materialized. Kiwior will probably be partnered by captain of the night, Rob Holding, who in all honesty, endured a torrid time in the FA Cup clash with Manchester City, losing duels after duels to Erling Haaland, before he was booted at half time for William Saliba.
In midfield, Jorginho has fully recovered from his illness, and should get the nod ahead of Thomas Partey that should be wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage. I’m certain that local lad, Fabio Vieira, would be in for some hostile reception, having left FC Porto to join the Gunners last summer. Injury returnees like Emile Smith-Rowe and Reiss Nelson will be looking for more minutes, and of course, we have the hungry Gabriel Jesus, that wants to return to first team action as quick as possible. With Leandro Trossard suffering a groin injury last weekend, and Eddie Nketiah still struggling with a knock on his ankle, the goalscoring burden would fall on the red-hot Gabriel Martinelli, and young Brazilian says he’s ready for the challenge,
“If I’m the number nine or on the wing, I always try to do my best and help the team by scoring or getting an assist.
“It’s up to Mikel – wherever he decides to play me, I’ll play. If the team need me I’d play as a goalkeeper! We play for Arsenal and everyone has this responsibility.”
A huge transfer raid this summer saw Sporting CP lose three of their key stars, Nuno Mendes (to PSG) while Joao Palhinha (Fulham) and Matheus Nunes (Wolves) came to the Premier League. The Portuguese outfit was paired in the same Champions League group with Arsenal’s rivals, Tottenham, Europa League defending champions, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Arsenal reject dumping ground, Olympique Marseille. Sporting CP began their Champions League campaign with two victories over Eintracht Frankfurt and Tottenham, but a slump in form saw the Portuguese outfit lose three of their next four games in the competition, crashing down to the Europa League playoffs.
Veteran defender, Sebastian Coates, scored a very late goal to earn his side a draw at their home ground, Estadio Jose Alvalade, but Sporting Lisbon went to Viking land and destroyed Midtjylland in front of their home fans, with the red hot Pedro Goncalves scoring two goals in the 4-0 victory. Those were his 15th and 16th strikes of the season, with the young Portuguese attacker having the form of his life in this campaign.
Sporting CP is currently fourth in the Portuguese Liga, with former Arsenal defender, Hector Bellerin, scoring his first goal for his new club in the recent league win over Estoril. Sporting CP’s loss to FC Porto in mid-February is the club’s only defeat in their last eight games, so they come into tonight’s game with four wins from their last five.
Sporting CP vs Arsenal Predicted Lineups
Sporting CP: Adan; Inacio, Coates, St. Juste; Esgaio, Tanlongo, Morita, Reis; Edwards, Paulinho, Goncalves
Arsenal: Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Kiwior, Tierney; Jorginho, Xhaka, Vieira; Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Saka.
Injury / Suspension Updates
Sporting CP: Daniel Braganca (cruciate ligament)
Arsenal: Mohamed Elneny (knee), Gabriel Jesus (lacking match fitness), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Leandro Trossard (groin)
Sporting CP Form
- Last Five Games: D W W W W
- Last Result: Portimonense 0-1 Sporting CP (Paulinho 71′)
- Leading Goalscorer: Pedro Goncalves (16)
- Last Five Games: L W W W W
- Last Result: Arsenal 3-2 Bournemouth (Partey 63′, White 70′, Nelson 96′ | Billing 1′, Senesi 57′)
- Leading Goalscorer: Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli (11)
Gooner Daily predicts a 1 – 2 victory.
Kick Off – 6.45pm (GMT +1) at Estadio Jose Alvalade.
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