Sporting Lisbon struggling ahead of Europa League clash with Everton FC
THE Lions have lost their roar in recent weeks and the natives are restless. When the draw for the last 32 of the Europa League was made before Christmas, Sporting Lisbon looked a daunting proposition for Everton. The Portuguese had made light work of winning Group D as they overcame the challenge of Hertha Berlin, Latvian side Ventspils and Dutch outfit Heerenveen. However, since the end of January their season has hit the rocks. Coach Carlos Carvalhal's side went into last night's tricky league trip to Pacos Ferreira on the back of four successive defeats. A 1-0 reverse at Braga was followed by an embarrassing 5-2 thrashing at Porto in the Cup of Portugal. Lowly Academica piled on the misery by inflicting a 2-1 home defeat and then on Tuesday night the Estadio Jose Alvalade faithful were enraged as city rivals Benfica dumped them out of the semi-finals of the League Cup 4-1. The Lions never recovered from having defender Joao Periera sent off early on. Out of both domestic cup competitions and cut well adrift of the top three in Portugal's top flight, the Europa League has suddenly taken on much greater significance. Director of football Miguel Salema Garcao admits confidence is in desperately short supply ahead of Tuesday's first leg at Goodison. 'It is clear that Sporting is going through a really bad patch,' he said. 'Our intention against our greatest rival (Benfica) was to play well and dedicate the win to our fans, but we were unable to do that. 'Right now it is time to stop and think, for the club's leaders to have the courage to take a long hard look at the situation and for us to think about Sporting's culture and identity and what we want from this season. 'The players know that to put on the Sporting shirt, they must show value and quality and be dedicated to the cause. To be at Sporting you need to have heart and soul and all of the players have that. 'It is in our interest right now to take a look at ourselves and to make an honest evaluation of the situation so that we can build something stronger upon it. 'We all have to get our heads down and work. We are aiming to get past Everton.' Garcao has handed the dreaded vote of confidence to Carvalhal, who only took over as coach in November following the departure of Paulo Bento. 'We are currently working with him,' he added. 'He has come into the club at an extraordinary moment and we are putting our trust in him. We have faith in his abilities.' Bento, who after four years in the job was the club's second longest serving coach, quit after a poor start to the season.
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