UEFA Europa League

Arsenal v Sporting: Back Martinelli to continue scoring but Lions to leave a scar

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Will Mikel Arteta push hard to win the Europa League with Arsenal?

After successfully backing Sporting to avoid defeat against Arsenal last week, Kevin Hatchard is backing the Portuguese giants to at least score at the Emirates.


Arsenal v Sporting
Thursday 16 March, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Craven Cottage masterclass a statement of intent

If anyone thought the pressure of the Premier League title race might start to get to Arsenal as winter reluctantly gives way to spring, they were slapped down with gusto on Sunday, as the Gunners sliced and diced Fulham on their way to a 3-0 win.

Admittedly, Fulham were a far more obliging outfit without midfield police chief Joao Palhinha, but it was still quite something to watch Mikel Arteta's table-toppers race into a 3-0 lead before half time.

Leandro Trossard made all three goals, and his arrival at the Emirates has mitigated the loss of Gabriel Jesus to injury.

Jesus is now back, but the fact he is no longer an automatic selection underlines how effective Trossard has been since his somewhat rancorous defection from Brighton.

Thumbnail image for 1280 Gabriel Jesus Arsenal happy 2022.jpg

With Arsenal five points clear at the top of the Premier League, it remains to be seen how Arteta truly views his team's bid to win the Europa League.

I would argue that a full-strength Gunners side is the best in the competition, a step ahead of Manchester United and a cut above the likes of Juventus and Roma.

The selection for the first leg of this tie against Sporting was instructive - Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ben White, William Saliba, Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli all started, so pretty much half of Arteta's best XI.

It was some of the fringe players who struggled at the Jose Alvalade - goalkeeper Matt Turner was at fault for the first Sporting goal, and looked shaky with the ball at his feet, while Polish defender Jakub Kiwior had a nightmare.

To some extent that rustiness is understandable. One of the features of Arteta's management this season has been the consistency of selection in the Premier League.

Eight of their players have made at least 20 top-flight starts this term, so how are the rest supposed to get any kind of rhythm?

It's genuinely hard to assess how strong a side Arteta will select, but Arsenal are at home here and at home again on Sunday against a Crystal Palace side that's in dreadful form, so there's an opportunity to go strong.

Sporting showed their grit and quality last week

Sporting must look upon Lisbon rivals Benfica with envy at the moment, as Roger Schmidt's side are in the Champions League quarter-finals and are streaking clear at the top of the Primeira Liga.

However, Ruben Amorim's Lions acquitted themselves well last week in the first leg, and with a bit more composure they might even have won the game. Paulinho had a fantastic chance with Sporting 2-1 up, but the centre-forward blazed his effort wide of the target.

Amorim's side won't travel to North London with any fear. They won 3-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League group stage and drew 1-1 at Tottenham.

Their only failure on the road was at Marseille, but that 4-1 defeat was heavily affected by a 23rd-minute red card for veteran goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Sporting's recent away form in general is very good. They have won their last five competitive road matches, including a 4-0 win at Danish side Midtjylland in the playoff round.

They drew 2-2 at league leaders Benfica in mid-January, so they can rise to the big occasion away from the Jose Alvalade.

Former Gunners defender Hector Bellerin is an injury doubt here, while Adan missed the weekend's 3-0 win over Boavista as a precaution.

Gunners are fair favourites, but back Sporting to strike

Arsenal are justifiable favourites here at 1.384/11 in the Match Odds market.

They have won 13 of their 17 home matches in all competitions, including all three of their UEL group games.

Even with a strong Arsenal side, I can't get excited about getting involved at that price, but the 2.111/10 on offer for Both Teams To Score is attractive.

Arsenal have kept just two clean sheets in their last eight competitive matches at the Emirates, and Sporting scored in all three of their away games in the Champions League.

Indeed, Amorim's team has scored in its last ten competitive matches, and they haven't failed to score in a road match since early January.

I'll go for BTTS here at 2.111/10.

Back BTTS at the Emirates @

2.1

Gabriel to be Arsenal's angel?

Brazilian speedster Gabriel Martinelli looked really lively in the first leg, and he has scored in four of his last six starts in all competitions. If he starts, he is certainly worth considering in the To Score market at 13/8.

Back Martinelli to score anytime @

13/8

On the Sporting side of things, Paulinho scored in the first leg, and then found the net in the weekend win over Boavista. He scored against Tottenham in the Champions League, and is 4/1 to score here.

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