Arsenal’s next two Europa League matches (both against Sporting Lisbon) will likely determine the winner and runner-up in Group E. The sides are currently even atop the group on six points, with the Gunners in first place on goal difference. The stakes are high - the group runner-up could draw a club like Tottenham, PSG, or Liverpool in the first knock-out round.
First up, though, is Thursday’s clash in Lisbon. An away result, be it a dominant, goal-filled romp or a late, smash-and-grab draw, would see the Gunners sitting pretty in the group.
The Portuguese club are currently 5th in the Premiera Liga and led by familiar faces Nani (the former Manchester United man) and Fredy Montero (of Seattle Sounders fame). Fun fact: goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, who spent a season on loan at Arsenal without making a competitive appearance, is on Sporting’s roster but has yet to play.
Arsenal are facing a bit of an injury crisis, so Unai Emery’s team might be a bit cobbled together - drawn from all over, if you will. Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac, who both missed Monday’s match against Leicester with hamstring tweaks, did not travel to Portugal and will be re-evaluated in London on Thursday. Sokratis should be fit for selection, but Emery suggested he may not want to gamble with the centerback’s recovering ankle.
Even Carl Jenkinson traveled with the team, underscoring the club’s current injury crisis at outside back. Arsenal’s forgotten man is looking to break into Emery’s 11 for the first time.
Arsenal are a team full of confidence, and they’ve been a ton of fun to watch lately. They seem to have cracked the code of Unai Emery’s system, unlocking the attacking potential of players like Mesut Özil and Alex Iwobi. It will be interesting to see if a rotated squad featuring players like Mohamed Elneny and Danny Welbeck will be able to produce similar results. Will one of those two vault themselves into the spotlight, or will somebody else steal the headlines?
Maybe it will be youngster Emile Smith Rowe, who is expected to get his second start for the club on Thursday. He won over the hearts of supporters (or at least my heart) when he scored his first senior goal against Qarabag earlier this month. He’s got speed and talent in spades, but is still a diamond in the rough - meaningful minutes are important for him.
A win on Thursday runs Arsenal’s streak to 11, just three off the club record, set in 1987. Time and again over the last 10 games, when the chips have been down, somebody has stepped up and won the critical tackle, made the key save, or scored the big goal. A word of advice for all those who think Arsenal are a house of cards: don’t bet against the Gunners right now.
WHAT: Arsenal at Sporting Lisbon
WHERE: Estadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal
WHEN: Thursday, October 25th 9:55 AM PT | 12:55 PM ET | 5:55 PM BT
**Note the starting time - because of Portugal’s time zone, the match is earlier than usual**
US TV: Paid streaming on the Bleacher Report Live platform / app. Spanish language broadcast available on Univision Deportes.
As a reminder, apart from the final, no Europa League matches will be televised in the US this season. Matches cost $2.99 individually, $9.99 per month for every match from the Champions League and the EL live and on-demand, or $79.99 for the entire season.
For all your international streaming needs, check livesoccer.tv - B/R Live is only available in the US. As always, please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.
*edited to update the status of Monreal and Kolasinac.