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SPORTS UPDATE

UCL: Conte relying on youthful stars to make good impression against Sporting Lisbon

Former Tottenham youngster Marcus Edwards never quite cut the mustard in the English capital, but the 23-year-old stole the spotlight when Sporting travelled to Frankfurt and is now out to show his former side exactly what they are missing.

After a goalless 65 minutes at the Deutsche Bank Park, Edwards fired home the opener before turning provider for Francisco Trincao to double Sporting’s lead just two minutes later, and the Portuguese giants would wrap up a comprehensive win courtesy of a late Nuno Santos strike.

A trio of left-footed goals certainly lets Tottenham know what they will need to pay the most attention to this weekend, and during a week where their young and innovative manager Amorim was linked with the Chelsea job, Sporting did not let the speculation affect them as they eased past Portimonense 4-0 in league action.

Having now strung together a three-game winning streak in all competitions, with three clean sheets and nine goals in tow, Sporting – who sit top of the Group D rankings after one matchday – are now out to end a barren record against Premier League opposition.

Indeed, the Lions are winless in six Champions League matches against English opposition and have never opened a premier European campaign with two straight wins, so history is certainly against the hosts as Tottenham aim to benefit from their elongated period of rest.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte on September 7, 2022
© Reuters

From Sead Kolasinac and Matteo Guendouzi to Nuno Tavares and the suspended Alexis Sanchez, there is certainly an Arsenal-based theme to Marseille’s squad nowadays, which only spurred Tottenham on to get the job done in professional fashion last week.

Marseille held out for a good chunk of time after witnessing Chancel Mbemba receive a red card for a last-man foul, but Richarlison marked his Champions League debut with a brace of headers to propel Tottenham to all three points on the opening matchday.

Marking their return to the pinnacle of continental football with a bang, Tottenham would have hoped to keep their momentum going against Premier League champions Manchester City at the weekend, but the fixture was one of many postponed in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

Antonio Conte’s side therefore have their unbeaten run for the season still intact as they aim to record an eighth game without defeat in all competitions, but only one of their three away games so far this term has ended in victory, and they were far from convincing for long periods against Marseille.

Tottenham and Sporting have never locked horns on the competitive stage before, but the Lilywhites memorably fell to a 1-0 loss on Portuguese turf against Pacos de Ferreira in the Europa Conference League qualifiers last term before rectifying those mistakes with a 3-0 home success.

Sporting did not enjoy the perfect evening against Frankfurt as defender Jeremiah St Juste had to be taken off with a muscular problem and will be forced to sit out the clash with Tottenham.

Further defensive woes presented themselves at the weekend as Goncalo Inacio and Luis Neto were forced off early in the win over Portimonense – while the former’s substitution was more precautionary, the latter left the field in tears in the second half and is also set to watch on from the sidelines.

Twenty-year-old Jose Marsa may therefore be thrown into the deep end this weekend, unless Amorim opts for Pedro Porro or Ricardo Esgaio as a makeshift centre-back, while Matheus Reis and Manuel Ugarte should also be back in the first XI.

As for the visitors, only Lucas Moura should be absent from the travelling party this weekend as he nurses his tendon injury, with Bryan Gil able to make the squad for the win over Marseille.

The rare luxury of a week off should see Conte make no changes to his first XI if he can help it, with Richarlison and Clement Lenglet once again aiming to restrict Dejan Kulusevski and Ben Davies to bench roles.

Should Richarlison also manage to score at least two goals this week, he would become only the second player in Champions League history to notch up a pair of strikes in his opening two games in the tournament after Diego Simeone in 1996.

Sporting have certainly recovered from their slow start to the season in the manner that Amorim would have wanted, but a host of fresh defensive concerns will threaten their hopes of a fourth-straight victory and shut-out.

The Lions should still experience some joy on the attacking front – Edwards in particular needs no added motivation to keep up his hot streak – but Tottenham can hit back against a depleted Sporting backline to record a second-straight European win.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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