Arsenal have drawn Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League Round of 16. The Gunners will travel to Portugal on March 9th for the first leg with the return leg at the Emirates on March 16th. The two legs fall amidst Bournemouth, @ Fulham, and Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Sporting sit in a comfortable 4th in La Primeira Liga, 7 points clear of 5th but also 8 points adrift of 3rd. Drawing Sporting means a reunion with our good friend Hector Bellerin, who moved to the Portuguese side in the January transfer window.
The two clubs have met four times in their history. They first met in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969. Arsenal drew in Lisbon and won 3-0 back in London. Much more recently, they shared a Europa League group in 2018. The Gunners prevailed 1-0 at Sporting and the two played to a 0-0 draw at the Emirates.
It’s a fine draw for Arsenal, not the toughest, not the easiest. To be fair, the Gunners are one of the monsters that teams are looking to avoid in the draws. Arsenal are second-favorite to win the competition, just behind Manchester United on betting odds. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher given Arsenal’s five-point lead with a game in hand on Manchester United in the Premier League and the Gunners’ recent head-to-head win. It’s probably down to recent form and that people are more apt to bet United anyway.
The draw in full:
Sevilla vs Fenerbahçe
Union Berlin vs Union St Gilloise
Juventus vs Freiburg
Leverkusen vs Ferencváros
Sporting Lisbon vs Arsenal
Manchester United vs Real Betis
Roma vs Real Soceidad
Feyenoord vs Shakhtar Donetsk