The UEFA Europa League continues on Thursday evening with a host of matches including Arsenal FC away at Portugal in a crunch match against Sporting Lisbon with The Gunners seeking to extend their winning run to 11 consecutive victories.
Hers is a round-up of some of the star matches:
SPORTING LISBON VS ARSENAL
Arsenal reached the Europa League semi-finals last season while Sporting Lisbon reached the quarter-finals, and so their Thursday night meeting promises to be an interesting contest.
This season, Arsenal look a completely new side under the guidance of Unai Emery, and the Spaniard will be hoping for success both domestically and on the European stage.
Sporting has somewhat steadied the ship after a tumultuous season last time out, and new manager Jose Peseiro will be hoping to cause an upset when his side host Arsenal.
Arsenal is currently on a winning run that spans 10 matches, having overcome Leicester City on Monday night to clinch an impressive 3-1 victory on home turf in the Premier League.
That 10-match run also includes a 3-1 victory over Brentford in the EFL Cup and two victories against the club’s Group E Europa League rivals Qarabag FK and Vorskla Poltava, whom the Gunners beat 3-0 and 4-2 respectively.
Sporting meanwhile has also made a winning start to life in Group E, though that was perhaps to be expected from both clubs given the opposition. Peseiro’s men have made a mixed start to their domestic season, sitting fifth in the Primeira Liga, having won four, drawn one and lost two.
Leoes lost a number of key names over the summer after the turmoil that surrounded the club last term, including captain Rui Patricio to Wolves, William Carvalho to Real Betis and Gelson Martins to Atletico Madrid.
The dust has appeared to have settled under the stewardship of Peseiro, who will be hoping to bring an end to Arsenal’s incredible winning run.
CHELSEA VS BATE BORISOV
After two matches played, and two narrow yet at times dominant 1-0 victories, against PAOK and Vidi FC, Chelsea sit atop Group L of the Europa League.
With another victory, the Blues could just about wrap up the group stage and have one foot in the knockout rounds already. Standing in Chelsea’s way are yet another new team we’ve never faced before in competitive action, BATE Borisov.
The perennial Belarussian Premier League champions BATE (twelve in a row and counting — they hold an 11-point lead after 24 rounds for the thirteenth) were supposed to be the second best team in the group but lost to PAOK at home, 4-1, on the last matchday.
They need a result from one of their upcoming two games against Chelsea, if not at the Bridge then in two weeks back in Borisov, and that may give them extra motivation to get a result.
AC MILAN VS REAL BETIS
AC Milan will be aiming to consolidate their place atop Group F of the UEFA Europa League when they welcome Real Betis to San Siro on Thursday.
As things stand, the Italian club is currently leading the Group F standings following a perfect start to their UEFA Europa League campaign. The Rossoneri are closely followed by Real Betis, who are unbeaten but dropped points on Matchday 1 when they played out a goalless draw against Olympiacos.
The two sides though haven’t quite been on song in domestic football. In fact, AC Milan and Real Betis have almost identical records, with both sides amassing 12 points so far in their respective leagues. On closer observation, however, one can notice what exactly separates the two.
Real Betis have found goals hard to come by, having only managed to find the back of the net five times in La Liga.
AC Milan, on the other hand, needs to find a way to keep a lid at the back, with the Rossoneri shipping in 11 goals from their eight Serie A outings.
MARSEILLE VS LAZIO
Marseille vs Lazio sees the Biancocelesti visit last season’s beaten finalists; with Marseille losing to Atletico Madrid in the final in Lyon in May.
Lazio looks to put the embarrassment, in the form of a 4-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, behind them – and work on picking up what would be a vital three points.
Marseille currently sits in 3rd in Group H – with just a point from their first two games. Lazio, meanwhile, is on three points – defeating Apollon Limassol in their campaign opener.
Marseille is in good form in Ligue 1 and sits in 4th place in the table; 2 points above 5th placed Lyon and level on points with 3rd place Montpellier.
Most recently, Marseille travelled to Nice and came away with a 1-0 win from Mario Balotelli’s side. Marseille’s last Europa League match saw them travel to Cyprus to take on Apollon Limassol – where they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.
Marseille’s other Europa League clash was a 2-1 home defeat to Frankfurt; with the German side sitting on top of the group with six points from their two matches.
Lazio is in good form, despite a 4-1 defeat to Frankfurt and a 3-1 loss in the Derby Della Capitale against Roma before the international break.
A 2-0 win in Parma at the weekend showed a strong Biancocelesti team spirit; one they will be hoping to transfer to the Orange Velodrome on Thursday evening.
Despite a 2-1 win over Apollon in their campaign opener, Lazio’s 4-1 loss in Frankfurt asked some serious questions of the squad; and how they were beaten so badly in a match they perhaps should have won.