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Sporting Lisbon in focus

It’s been a troubled few months for the Portuguese side.

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Former Manchester United winger Nani returned to Sporting in the summer (Nick Potts/PA)

Former Manchester United winger Nani returned to Sporting in the summer (Nick Potts/PA)

Former Manchester United winger Nani returned to Sporting in the summer (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal travel to face Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday night looking to extend their winning run to 11 matches.

The Gunners come up against a team who lost a number of key players during a dark few months for a club with a proud history.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a closer look at Sporting and the challenge they present to Unai Emery’s side.

Continental pedigree

18-time league winners in Portugal, Sporting have struggled to make a similar mark in European competition.

Their sole success came in the 1964 Cup Winners’ Cup as they saw off MTK Budapest after a replay.

Former Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel was the key man as Sporting made the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2011/12 where they were beaten by Athletic Bilbao, while current boss Jose
Peseiro led them to the final of the competition in 2005 only to lose to CSKA Moscow.

Since then it has been a tough ask for the Leoes, only twice getting past either the Europa League or Champions League group stages – but two wins from two means they are favourites to advance
from Group E alongside Arsenal this time around.

Manager

Peseiro returned to the Portuguese capital this summer as a replacement for Sinisa Mihajlovic, who held the post for just nine days before he was sacked.

A former manager of Saudi Arabia’s international team, Peseiro has also coached in Greece, Romania and the United Arab Emirates.

He was also an assistant to Carlos Queiroz during his time as Real Madrid’s manager but, 13 years after resigning from Sporting, he was reappointed at a tumultuous time in the club’s history.

Rebuilding

Sporting’s training ground was attacked by a group of angry supporters after the club failed to seal Champions League qualification at the end of last season.

That led to 11 players terminating their contracts, citing “just cause” following the incident as the likes of Rui Patricio, William Carvalho and Bas Dost led the mass departures.

Peseiro has now been charged with getting the side back on the right track and recruited a number of replacements.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano joined from Sampdoria with former Manchester United winger Nani also returning to his first club.

Form

Despite the upheaval, Sporting’s class of 2018 have lost just two games in all competitions so far this season.

They prepared for the visit of their Premier League opponents by seeing off minnows Loures 2-1 in the Taca de Portugal.

Before that, they slipped to a 4-2 league defeat at Portimonense and now sit fifth in the table.

Their Europa League campaign has started with two wins but Sporting required two stoppage-time goals from Fredy Montero and Jovane Cabral to see off Ukrainian outfit Vorskla Poltava last time out.

PA