After a double from Fredy Montero, in for a couple of unavailable strikers, Sporting Lisbon will head to the Czech Republic with a two goal lead to take on Viktoria Plzen on Thursday in the Europa League Round of 16 second leg in comfortable position.
Doosan Arena, Plzen, Czech Republic 15 Mar 2018 6:00 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: Sporting have only lost six times this season, and five of those six have been to teams that were either or were in the Champions League.
Expert Verdict: With a 2-0 lead at home in Lisbon, Sporting should be feeling very good about their chances of moving on. Viktoria Plzen will be on the attack early on to try to claw something back, no doubt, but that could well be their downfall. Just one goal from Sporting would make the Czechs need four to go through. They are good at coming behind, as their group stage performance showed, but they are too far back to go through to the quarterfinals.
Pavel Vrba will be missing left back David Limbersky due to a suspension for yellow card accumulation.
In the Europa League, Viktoria Plzen have been led in a big way by striker Michal Krmencik. The Czech forward has scored four times and assisted twice so far, and he also scored a goal at the weekend in their draw to take him onto 11 goals in the HET Liga so far this season. It is a big ask for him and his team, but if they are to come back from the brink he'll have to be leading the charge.
Plzen have two draws, two losses, and a win in their last five matches:
2-2 home draw vs Slovan Liberec
2-0 loss at Sporting Lisbon (UEL)
0-1 home loss vs Vysocina Jihlava
2-0 home win vs Partizan Belgrade (UEL)
0-0 draw at Sigma Olomouc
Defenders:Reznik, Hejda, Hubnik, Hajek
Defensive Midfielders:Hrosovsky, Horava
Attacking Midfielders:Petrzela, Kolar, Zeman
Jorge Jesus has major personnel issues for this match with three men out with suspension alone. Center back Sebastian Coates, defensive midfielder William Carvalho, and center midfielder Josip Misic are all out. Also missing out with injuries are winger Daniel Podence, center back Andre Pinto, riht back Cristiano Piccini, and forward Seydou Doumbia. To make matters worse, left back Bruno Cesar came off early on Monday with an injury. A positive is that striker Bas Dost could be set to return for them if he is needed.
After helping himself to two goals last week in the first leg when the two sides met, Fredy Montero will be expecting to lead the line again. The Colombian, back from MLS again, has always been capable of scoring big goals, but has always had a little bit of issues being consistent in Europe. But it's his two goals that are looking to be giving Sporting the edge they need to advance, and he could be quite dangerous here against a team that needs goals.
Sporting have three wins, a loss, and a draw in their last five matches:
1-2 win at Chaves
2-0 home win vs Viktoria Plzen (UEL)
2-1 loss at FC Porto
1-0 home win vs Moreirense
3-3 home draw vs Astana (UEL)
Defenders:Battaglia, Ristovski, Mathieu, Agbenyenu
Midfielders:Martins, Fernandes, Ruiz, Acuna
The first leg a week ago marked the first meeting between these two sides. In that match in Lisbon, Sporting took control of the tie through two goals from Colombian striker Fredy Montero. They should be the ones to go through now.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Viktoria Plzen are at 17/10 to win, a draw is at 9/4, and a Sporting win is at 8/5.
Plzen come into this match still on top of the league in the Czech Republic, and by a decent margin as well. This gives them the chance to fully assault this second leg in an attempt to try and get through to the next round in unlikely fashion.Meanwhile, Sporting are one of the two sides that are chasing in Portugal. They and their Lisbon rivals Benfica are fighting for second place scraps behind FC Porto, with the leaders not looking like they'll be caught without a big slip up.
Plzen and Lisbon have each had a long European journey this season, with each starting out in the Champions League. The Czech side were knocked out of it before they had even sniffed the group stage, but they recovered to make it to the UEL group stages. From there, they overcame an early deficit and the side that had knocked them out of the UCL (Steaua Bucharest) on the way to the knockout stages. They saw off Partizan Belgrade in the last round. As for Sporting Lisbon, they saw off the aforementioned Steaua Bucharest side to get into the Champions League group stage. They then finished third behind Barcelona and Juventus and in front of Olympiakos to set up a tie with Astana in which they comfortably moved on from in the last round.
At home this season, Plzen have 14 wins, a draw, and three losses. One of the losses came in extra time to Czech opposition, while one of the losses came at the hands of Steaua Bucharest. Since then, they have won all of their European home affairs, but it must be said that Sporting are a step up from the teams they have encountered so far. Sporting started well on the road this season, and have a total of 12 wins, a penalty win, four draws, and five losses so far. However, they have lost three of their last six (?) away games, all in Portuguese football. The other losses were to Barcelona and Juventus, so there's no shame in that.
Both teams to score, via Ladbrokes, is at ¾.
Viktoria Plzen have had a great season so far. They were knocked out of the Champions League and looked to be going out of the Europa League group, but they buckled down and got it done. They won't go down without a fight, but it will be too little too late.