Arsenal can guarantee qualification from Group E of the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League by beating Sporting CP at the Emirates Stadium in London on Thursday night.
The Gunners won the reverse fixture 1-0 in Lisbon, Portugal, last time out to make it three wins from three in the tournament this season. Unai Emery’s squad is unbeaten in 14 matches across all competitions.
By contrast, Sporting will arrive in north London in a state of turmoil. Jose Peseiro has been let go as manager, with Tiago Fernandes assuming a caretaker role.
Fernandes still has a few potential match-winners, notably former Manchester United winger Nani and gifted midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
Date: Thursday, November 8
Time: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET
TV Info: BT Sport 2
Live Stream: BT Sport App, B/R Live, fuboTV
Odds (Per Oddschecker)
- Arsenal: 1-3
- Sporting: 24-5
- Draw: 11-1
Arsenal are heavy favourites with the oddsmakers even though Emery is expected to make changes, One of those changes may occur between the sticks, where Petr Cech could replace Bernd Leno as goalkeeper.
Cech lost his starting spot due to injury, but he could be in line for a recall after Leno made some mistakes during Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League.
Leno was at fault for the visitors’ goal when he palmed Sadio Mane’s cross-shot into a dangerous area, leading to James Milner finding the net. If Cech replaces him, he may be playing behind a different defence.
Stephan Lichtsteiner might start ahead of Hector Bellerin at right-back, while Sead Kolasinac could continue on the left. Things may also be shuffled around in midfield, where Matteo Guendouzi, who was suspended against Liverpool, can start.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Emile Smith Rowe will also push for starts, while Danny Welbeck or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are likely to lead the line up top in place of Alexandre Lacazette.
Aubameyang started in Lisbon and has already established himself as the most prolific attacker at Emery’s disposal:
The Gunners have the firepower to score the goals they need to book a place in the round of 32. The bigger challenge will be staying strong at the back in the face of Nani’s flair and Fernandes’ box-to-box quality.
This duo’s ability to supply 29-year-old target man Bas Dost with chances can undermine a shaky Arsenal back four. If Arsenal can keep the door closed, Aubameyang will make the difference on home soil