How will Premier League leaders Arsenal approach the Europa League?
In the autumn, the Gunners pipped PSV to top spot in Group A, accumulating 15 points, their sole defeat coming in Eindhoven.
In recent years, Arsenal have been languishing in mid-table, thereby looking to this tournament to save their season.
Right now though, Mikel Arteta’s team are top of the Premier League, with many supporters therefore viewing this competition as an unwelcome distraction.
On Saturday, they enjoyed yet another dramatic victory, coming from 2-0 down to beat Bournemouth 3-2 at home.
Thomas Partey and then Benjamin White getting the comeback going, before Reiss Nelson fired home a 97th minute winner, sparking wild celebrations, the like of which the Emirates has rarely witnessed.
This is Arsenal’s third stoppage time winner of the season, all coming since 22 January, the joint-most they’ve ever had in a single campaign since records began.
If the Gunners do rest and rotate ahead of Sunday’s trip to Fulham, are Sporting Clube de Portugal in a good position to take advantage?
Well, Rúben Amorim’s team are currently fourth in the Primeira Liga, five points adrift Braga in the final Champions League spot, which would constitute a disastrous campaign.
Meantime, in Europe, the Leões missed out on the Champions League knockouts on the final matchday, beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt in Lisbon, despite taking the lead through Arthur Gomes that night.
Then, in this competition, following a last-gasp draw at home to Midtjylland, Sporting turned on the style in Herning, cruising to a 4-0 victory.
Sebastián Coates on target in both legs, before Pedro Gonçalves bagged a brace in Denmark, with the hosts then scoring a comedy own goal for the ages.
Sporting reached the UEFA Cup final in 2005, beaten in their own stadium by CSKA Moscow, also falling in two quarter-finals and one semi subsequently.
The Green and Whites had won seven consecutive two-legged knockout ties against English clubs, before being spanked by Manchester City 12 months ago.
On the flip side, Arsenal won 1-0 at Sporting three and a half years ago, and have won three of their four previous knockout ties against Portuguese outfits.
In short, of the teams Arsenal could’ve drawn, Sporting are not amongst the strongest, but they will not be swatted aside easily either.
Having already beaten Tottenham at home this season, can Verde e brancos complete a North London double at Estádio José Alvalade?
Sporting CP team news
Tottenham academy graduate Marcus Edwards has shone at Sporting; he previously scored at the Emirates during his time with Vitória de Guimarães.
He’ll continue as part of a front three that’ll also feature Pedro Gonçalves, who’s got 16 goals to his name this season.
Other key players are centre-back Sebastián Coates, once of Liverpool, and highly-rated goalkeeper Antonio Adán.
Having arrived from Barcelona in January, Héctor Bellerín will come up against the side he made 239 senior appearances for, although he’s likely to be on the bench.
Predicted XI (3-4-2-1): Adán; Coates, Diomande, Inácio; Esgaio, Ugarte, Morita, Santos, Edwards, Gonçalves, Paulinho.
Arsenal team news
With a tough trip to Craven Cottage on the horizon, most Arsenal fans are exploring Mikel Arteta to rotate heavily.
Matt Turner is likely to deputise in goal, with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Rob Holding also set to start, while Kieran Tierney hasn’t travelled due to illness.
It’ll be interesting to see if Jakub Kiwior makes his debut, having arrived from Spezia for €25 million in January.
At the other end of the pitch, there’s no obvious centre-forward, with Eddie Nketiah out and Leandro Trossard having hobbled off at the weekend.
Neither have made the trip to Portugal, so Gabriel Martinelli is the obvious choice to start up front.
Reiss Nelson’s dramatic winner should earn him a start, with Emile Smith Rowe also in the XI, the latter hasn’t started since 16 May, but did manage 47 minutes against Bournemouth.
Of the team, including subs, that beat Sporting away in October 2018, only Holding, Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny (out long-term) are still at the club.
Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Kiwior, Zinchenko; Jorginho, Xhaka, Smith Rowe; Fábio Vieira, Nelson; Martinelli.