After failing to win all 3 of the his first competitive games as Sporting manager, Domingos Paciência will know that this is his most high pressured match yet. It seems silly to be mentioning pressure so early in a manager’s career but the last two Sporting performances were incredibly toothless in attack and not easy on the eye. Being eliminated from the Europa League so soon against a team like Nordsjælland would also be a huge shock and a massive cause for concern.
Sporting are still favourites to qualify of course based on the strengths of the two squads although there will be a few absentees. Alberto Rodríguez picked up an injury in the 0-0 draw away to Beira-Mar last time out and is out for this match, though injury though is not as bad as it was first feared. Matías Fernández, Luis Aguiar, Bruno Pereirinha and Jeffrén Suárez are also all unavailable.
This means that youngster André Martins is into the Sporting squad for the match. Tiago Ilori also trained with the first team squad this week and he could feature at some stage.
Valeri Bojinov is also much closer to playing again and could be on the bench, and perhaps possibly make his competitive debut.
Carrying a goalless draw from the away leg into the home tie means a home win will put Sporting through but a score draw could spell disaster as Sporting would be eliminated on away goals.
In the absence of Alberto Rodríguez, this should mean that Daniel Carriço will make his first start of the season to partner Ânderson Polga in the central defensive shots.
Although the defence really is not the issue at the moment for Sporting, with only 1 goal in the first 3 games after a pre-season full of goals and with tonight’s incentive, scoring is a must. Paciência faces a few tricky calls on who to play up front either Hélder Postiga, Ricky van Wolfswinkel or both as the out and out striker. Diego Rubio and possibly Valeri Bojinov could provide further attacking options.
Possible SPORTING XI:
João Pereira – Daniel Carriço – Ânderson Polga – Evaldo Fabiano
Marat Izmailov – Stijn Schaars – Diego Capel
Ricky van Wolfswinkel – Hélder Postiga