Manuel Veth –
Sporting vs Vorskla – Thursday, December 13, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – José Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal
There is not much to play for as the fates of all four teams in UEFA Europa League Group E were sealed on matchday 5. Sporting CP qualifying as runners-up for the round of 32 after a 6-1 victory over Qarabag FK.
Second in the domestic Liga NOS Sporting seem to have somewhat recovered from what was a 2017/18 season to forget. Fan protests and players cancelling their contracts at the end of the season amidst a revolt against President Bruno de Carvalho saw Sporting on the brink of collapse.
At one point 19 players saw their contracts cancelled and this summer, top players William Carvalho, for €20 million to Betis Sevilla, Rui Patricio, for €18 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Gelson Martins, free transfer to Atlético Madrid, ended up leaving the club below market value.
It was the usual bloodletting for Sporting, but the spat between the players and the management led to the club earning less money than what the current climate on the transfer market could have commanded. In the medium-term, however, the revolt did less damage than anticipated. In the Europa League Sporting are now through to the next round and in Portugal Sporting could seriously challenge for the first title since 2002.
Title ambitions are the last thing that will be on Vorskla’s mind, however. The Ukrainian visitors are already eliminated and to add insult to injury UEFA forced Vorskla to move their high-profile home game against Arsenal from Poltava to Kyiv. Instead of giving Vorskla the opportunity to play in front of 24,795 spectators in what would have been the greatest football spectacle the city of Poltava had ever seen the match in Kyiv was attended by just 7,751 visitors in the Ukrainian capital.
Vorskla was always going to be an outsider in this competition but even though Poltava is not one of the regions in which martial law is in affect UEFA sided with Arsenal and moved the match. In general, these are tough times for Ukrainian football and Vorskla, in particular, could have made good use with the extra income generated from their home match.
Now out of the competition, the focus will be on finishing strong in Europe and a return to the Europa League next season. Fifth in the Ukrainian Premier League standings Vorskla go into the winter break just one point behind fourth-places Zorya Luhansk. Hence, the UEL season might be over for Poltava but the preparations for the second part of the season start on Thursday in Lisbon. With this in mind, both sides will likely somewhat rotate their sides, which might give Poltava the chance to snatch an unlikely result.
Sporting vs Vorskla – Players to look out for:
Bas Dost #28 – Sporting
Bas Dost has been a goalscoring machine for Sporting. The Dutch striker with the Peter Crouch-like appearance has scored eight goals in just seven league games for Sporting this season. Scoring a goal every 63 minutes Dost, in fact, is winning an impressive 58.3% of his 10.24 aerial duels this season, making him a danger whenever Sporting look to cross the ball high into the box. But it is not just goals that makes Dost valuable for Sporting this season. The Dutch forward also attempts 4.55 recoveries in per game in the opposition half (84.4% success rate) making him a valuable player in Sporting’s high press.
Pavlo Rebenok #82– Vorskla Poltava
The central midfielder has spent a large portion of his career with Vorskla Poltava. Having been accustomed to various styles of play under numerous managers, he is very versatile and an asset to the Ukrainian side. He played an essential role in their matches against Qarabağ FK, and he will need to provide his magic in this match if Vorskla have any hopes of overcoming Sporting on the road.
Sporting vs Vorskla – Match Stats
- Sporting snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on matchday two as they scored twice in the dying minutes to beat Vorskla 2-1 in Poltava, the Ukrainian side having led from the tenth minute in the clubs’ first European engagement.
- Vorskla have had two previous knockout ties against Portuguese sides, losing both. They did gain a memorable consolation 2-1 home win against Benfica in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League play-offs following a 4-0 first-leg loss in Lisbon.
- Sporting are unbeaten in seven UEFA competition games against opponents from Ukraine, winning six of them including all three at home, the most recent a 2-1 success (3-2 on aggregate) against Metalist Kharkiv in the quarter-finals of the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Sporting vs Vorskla – 3-1
Sporting vs Vorskla – Lineups
Ribeiro – Lumor, Coates, Pinto – Caspar – Gudelj, B. Fernandes – Nani, Castaignos, Mané – Dost
Head Coach: Marcel Keizer
Shust – Perduta, Giorgadze, Chesnakov, Artur – Serhiychuk, Kravchenko, Sharpar, Rebenok – Kulach – Careca
Manager: Vasyl Sachko
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.