Not often you wait so long to see a new signing these days
Arteta names a strong team despite five changes
I make that three of Arsenal’s first-choice back four, one of their first-choice midfield three and two of their first-choice front three.
Arteta’s hands were tied somewhat: Tierney and Odegaard missed out through illness, while Trossard and Nketiah had knocks. Jesus did not travel to Portugal.
Slightly surprised that the Arsenal manager has risked Zinchenko with Tomiyasu available. In an ideal world, I’m sure he would like to have benched Saka, but not sure there are options.
And there is the Sporting team…
Arsenal team: Kiwior in for debut, no Jesus in squad
How strong will Arteta go in the Europa League?
It is more than four months since Arsenal last played in Europe and this evening they restart their Europa League campaign with an away last-16 first leg against Sporting CP.
With Mikel Arteta’s team five points clear at the top of the Premier League with 12 games to go, the importance of this competition will be debated. Arsenal are 99 percent certain to be playing Champions League football this season, which is usually a key incentive to go for the Europa League. In order to hold off the challenge of Manchester City, Arsenal need all of the margins in their favor and it could be argued that this is an unnecessary distraction.
That said, Arsenal have not won a European trophy since 1994 which is a poor return for a club of their resources, and they should be able to navigate Europa League opposition while rotating their team. The January arrivals of Jorginho, Jakukb Kiowir and Leandro Trossard made the squad deeper, although Trossard and Eddie Nketiah’s short-term injuries left them a little light up front at present. The return of Gabriel Jesus will help, and the Brazilian has traveled with the squad to Lisbon and there is an outside chance he could feature from the bench.
Sporting coach Ruben Amorim is tipped to be a rising star, and his team impressed in their Champions League group games against Tottenham. Former Spurs academy product Marcus Edwards will be up for facing Arsenal, although there is a friendly face in Sporting’s ranks in the form of Hector Bellerin. Sporting are weakened by the absence of defensive midfielder Manuel Ugarte due to suspension.
From an Arsenal perspective, all eyes are on how strong Arteta is prepared to go in order to take command of the tie tonight. Arsenal travel to Fulham on Sunday.
Full team news on the way shortly.