Sporting Clube de Portugal have always had a tricky time against Russian opposition. Despite never having played Lokomotiv, there are some sour wounds from games against CSKA. Indeed, many Sporting fans will believe that Sporting should be in the Champions League instead of the Europa League if it wasn't for some unfair decisions against CSKA during the final qualifying round. Two handball goals and a mysteriously disallowed goal will do that. Sporting fans are also not fond off the constant reminders of the 2005 UEFA Cup final when facing a Russian team when CSKA beat Sporting at the Estádio José Alvalade of all places.
Despite that trepidation about facing Russian opposition, the Avalade has been an very strong venue for Sporting especially in Europe. Only Chelsea have managed to win in recent years.
There's certainly more confidence around the club since the shocking arrival of former Benfica manager Jorge Jesus over the summer. Since then Sporting have changed from a tactical 4-3-3 to an attacking 4-2-2-2 which has improved fire power immensely. Though there are some defensive frailties still around, especially at right back with João Pereira a good attacking outlet but defensively suspect, and Ricardo Esgaio relatively inexperienced.
Algerian striker Islam Slimani, tricky winger André Carrillo and an Alberto Aquilani returning to form should pose a great threat to Lokomotiv and the rest of the Europa League group. This squad has perhaps the most quality in depth Sporting have had for many seasons.
The objectives for the season then are to finally reclaim the Primeira Liga and a deep run into the Europa League to ease the pain from those games against CSKA. Although, historically only a Europa League win will cover those scars.
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