Sporting CP will host Arsenal in Lisbon tonight, with the Portuguese club looking to take advantage of a first leg at home and head to London for the second leg with a lead. Can either side take a big step toward qualifying for the quarter-finals? We preview the match and reveal our Opta supercomputer prediction for the clash.

The Quick Hits

  • Arsenal are being given a 46.5% chance of returning to the Emirates with a victory in Lisbon tonight.
  • Sporting CP haven’t scored against Arsenal in their last four competitive encounters.
  • Mikel Arteta’s side topped their Europa League group comfortably, conceding just three goals in the process.

Match Preview

Fresh off the back of another dramatic win in the Premier League against Bournemouth at the weekend, Arsenal travel to Lisbon, Portugal to take on Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 clash.

It sounds like a fairly unique matchup, but it’ll actually be the fifth meeting between the two sides in European competition, with the Gunners yet to lose or concede a goal in the previous four.

Arsenal and Sporting CP have met twice in the UEFA Europa League before, coming back in 2018-19 when both sides were drawn in Group E. The Gunners came off better – taking four points across the two meetings on the way to topping the group. Their Europa League ultimately ended in disappointment however, with a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the final in Baku.

But that last meeting came over four years ago. A lot has changed since then.

Luckily our Opta Power Rankings can directly compare the two sides’ relative strengths regardless of that.

Arsenal have cracked in the top 10 in our global rankings to reach the No. 9 spot. The fact that they are just a 0.01 rating score behind Paris Saint-Germain shows how far Mikel Arteta’s team have come this season.

Sporting CP are a little ways back, coming in at No. 44. That’s good enough for the third-best team in Portugal, with FC Porto (15) and Lisbon rivals Benfica (19) ahead of them. Dropping down from the Champions League into the Europa League will have hurt their rank slightly, but a win over Arsenal’s north London rivals Tottenham in the UCL group stage does show they’re a threat to bigger sides, particularly at home.

Sporting CP vs. Arsenal Power Rankings

Few would argue the Gunners aren’t the favourites to progress over the two legs. Across 180 minutes of football, their extra quality should tell.

But they will have reasons to be wary. First, Arsenal’s record in Europe away to Portuguese sides is fairly poor. They have only won one of their nine away major European competition matches in Portugal (D5 L3), with that win coming against Sporting CP in October 2018.

Second, Sporting CP have progressed from each of their previous six ties against English sides in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup/Europa League, with all six coming against different teams.

Previous Meeting

Arsenal 0-0 Sporting CP: 8 November 2018 (UEFA Europa League)

Arsenal 0-0 Sporting CP November 2018

These sides last met back in 2018 in the group stage of the Europa League where they played out a goalless draw at the Emirates. A point on the night was enough for Arsenal to qualify for the last 32.

After winning their opening three Europa League games in 2018-19, then-Arsenal boss Unai Emery was able to make nine changes to his side. Only Rob Holding and Henrikh Mkhitaryan kept their places from the 1-1 draw against Liverpool the previous weekend, with Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerín left out completely.

Arsenal’s starting XI that day is a strong indicator of just how much this squad has been rebuilt:

Arsenal lineup vs Sporting CP 2018

Recent Form

After a wobble at the start of February when Arsenal went three league games without a win, Mikel Arteta’s side have bounced back with three straight victories. They currently hold a five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League standings.

The Gunners finished top of their Europa League group, winning five of their six games this season (L1). No side won more in the group stages. Despite scoring just eight goals across their six matches, their solid defence helped them stroll the group. Arsenal conceded just three goals in the group stages and have now kept a clean sheet in four of their last five games in the UEFA Europa League.

Sporting also come into this tie in fine form. They’ve won their last four games in all competitions, including an impressive 4-0 away win at FC Midtjylland in the second leg of their Europa League playoff game. A 1-0 away win at Portimonense last weekend saw manager Rúben Amorim clock up his 100th win for the club in all competitions.

His side have only lost four of their 36 home matches in the UEFA Europa League and are unbeaten in their last five (W4 D1) since a 1-0 defeat in February 2019 vs Villarreal.

Key Players

Sporting CP: Pedro Goncalves

Pedro Goncalves – also known as ‘Pote’ – is without a doubt Sporting CP’s most dangerous player. He’s their leading scorer in Liga Portugal with 12 strikes and has a further six assists to his name. His 18 goal involvements are by far the highest for Sporting CP, while only João Mário of Benfica has more across the whole of the Portuguese top-flight.

Most goal involvements Portuguese Primeira Liga

The forward scored twice in the Europa League second leg against Midtjylland, with his strikes effectively putting the game to bed.

Aside from his direct goal involvements, Pote is exceptionally dangerous when carrying the ball off the left wing. He’s created 35 chances directly following a ball carry, which is five more than any player in the Portuguese Primeira Liga.

Pote attacking carries Sporting CP

Arsenal: Eddie Nketiah

Eddie Nketiah is Arsenal’s top scorer in the competition, albeit with just two goals to his name. He leads all Arsenal players for expected goals too, both as a total, and on a per-90 basis (0.55).

The young striker found himself on the bench for recent wins over Leicester and Everton following a slight drop in form, and Arteta then confirmed after his substitute appearance against the Toffees that the young striker had suffered with a slight injury concern.

That said, Arteta has stated, “he’s very positive about [the injury] and hopefully he’ll be fine.” He’ll look to lead the line in Portugal, particularly with Leandro Trossard going down last match with a groin injury.

Eddie Nketiah Goals for Arsenal in 2022-23

Sporting vs Arsenal Prediction

The Opta supercomputer unsurprisingly has Arsenal down as favourites to come away with a victory.

The supercomputer’s confident they’ll travel to Fulham next weekend fresh off the back of another win (46.5%). A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for either team – that’s down at 26.2%. Sporting CP’s chances of a win are slightly higher than that (27.3%).

Sporting vs Arsenal prediction and preview

Enjoy this? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive exclusive stories each Friday. It’s free. And follow us on Twitter too.