Arsenal found it tough going against Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday night – giving up a first half lead and then having to equalise themselves.
The Gunners will remain narrow favourites to progress to the last eight of the competition thanks to home advantage in the second leg, which effectively now makes the tie a one-off game.
The Europa League could provde Arsenal with their first European trophy in 29 years, but there remains so much else also to play for this season with a first Premier League title in 19 years also very much on the line in the weeks to come.
Here are Arsenal’s next six games, which fall either side of an international break in March.
Arsenal’s next engagement is a trip to London neighbours Fulham, who have shocked the top flight by surging towards the European placings in recent months.
The return fixture provided a stirring early season win for the Gunners. Aleksandar Mitrovic had struck just before the hour mark but Martin Odegaard equalised before Gabriel atoned for an earlier mistake by netting an 86th-minute winner.
Things started well enough for Arsenal in Lisbon in the first leg when William Saliba scored an early header from a corner. But Sporting CP came back into the game in a big way not long after.
Former Tottenham forward Marcus Edwards proved a real pain throughout and was involved heavily as Goncalo Inacio and Paulinho scored either side of half-time. An own goal from Hidemasa Morita ensures the second leg will start on a level playing field.
Crystal Palace have dished out some harsh treatment to Arsenal in recent years. The Eagles are even four games unbeaten at the Emirates, drawing their last three after winning 3-2 in 2019.
Palace beat Arsenal at Selhurst Park last season as the Gunners’ Champions League push began to fade but Mikel Arteta banished those demons earlier this term with a 2-0 away victory thanks to Gabriel Martinelli’s strike and Marc Guehi’s own goal.
Next up on the docket will be Leeds at the start of April. Teams will have recovered players from the March international break before the final few crunch months of the season.
The two teams are battling for alternative goals; Arsenal want the title while Leeds just need to survive. 1-0 proved enough for Arsenal to win at Elland Road in October.
This trip will be much more of an acid test than games against Fulham, Palace and Leeds, all of which Arsenal will be expected to win while still potentially difficult.
Liverpool have handed out some severe beatings to the Gunners in recent times and haven’t lost to them at Anfield in the Premier League since 2012. However, Arsenal won the return fixture and, given the two teams’ contrasting fortunes, will be favourites here.
Arsenal will take on another relegation candidate when they return from Merseyside, though they could have another Europa League game to play before facing West Ham if they get past Sporting.
The Hammers rarely put up a fight against Arsenal, winning just one of the last 14 games against them, but could play with some added intent if they’re still involved in the scrap down at the bottom of the table.
The first legs of the 2022/23 Europa League quarter final ties will be played on 13 April and the return games on 20 April.
Should Arsenal beat Sporting over two legs, they would have two more games to fit into their imminent schedule. The match with West Ham, already on a Sunday, won’t be moved but the Friday night game against Southampton scheduled for 21 April would have to be rearranged.
On this edition of The Chronicles of a Gooner, part of the 90min podcast network, Harry Symeou previews Arsenal’s trip to Sporting CP in the Europa League and reacts to Gabriel Jesus’ return to full training.
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