Arsenal were sloppy and disjointed at times, but the Gunners departed Lisbon with a fortunate 2-2 draw after a wacky and wild 90 minutes against Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 16 matchup.
Mikel Arteta made six changes to his starting lineup, some forced and others not, knowing there are many key fixtures in the coming weeks as Arsenal fight on multiple fronts, including a fierce Premier League title chase. It showed, as the Gunners were messy in key moments, allowing Sporting to prove dangerous on the counter throughout the match.
William Saliba staked the Gunners to an early lead but the hosts struck twice before Arsenal found level footing through a Sporting own goal.
The game collected more than 4 expected goals, spread pretty evenly between the two teams as Arsenal took 14 of the game’s 24 shots but needed USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner for four big saves in the draw.
Portuguese side Sporting CP will face off against EPL leaders Arsenal in UEFA Europa League play as the teams begin their Round of 16 series on Thursday. Sporting are coming off a 5-1 aggregate win over Danish side Midtjylland in the knockout round playoffs, while Arsenal finished on top of Group A to book an automatic spot in the Round of 16. Kickoff is set for 12:45 p.m. ET from Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal. You can catch all the action via livestream on Paramount+.
Sporting took down Midtjylland with relative ease, logging a 1-1 draw at home followed by a commanding 4-0 win on the road. Sporting finished third in Group D in Champions League play, falling to the Europa League as they look to make a deep run. They’ll have their work cut out for them against Arsenal, who have been sitting at the top of the Premier League table for the majority of the 2022-23 season.
The Gunners won five of their six matches in the group stage, with their only loss coming to PSV Eindhoven on Matchday 5. They were able to finish at the top of Group A, two points clear of PSV as they awaited their opponent from the knockout round playoffs. Mikel Arteta’s side, led by Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, have won their last four matches in EPL play as they’ve been widening the gap between themselves and second-place Manchester City at the top of the table.
Sporting CP sit in fourth place in Liga Portugal, a full 15 points behind league leaders Benfica. They have also won their last four matches across all competitions, and have only lost twice in their last 11 outings. They’re led by Pedro Goncalves, who has notched 12 goals and six assists through 22 matches in Liga Portugal this season. However, they’ll be without Manuel Ugarte, who will be serving a one-match suspension due to yellow card accumulation.
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