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Athletic target winning send-off

Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012, 11.05CET
After a disappointing group stage, last season's runners-up Athletic Club will hope to end Group I on a high when they play host to AC Sparta Praha in Bilbao on matchday six.
Athletic target winning send-off
Last season's runners up Athletic have not enjoyed Group I ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012, 11.05CET

Athletic target winning send-off

After a disappointing group stage, last season's runners-up Athletic Club will hope to end Group I on a high when they play host to AC Sparta Praha in Bilbao on matchday six.

Beaten finalists last season, Athletic Club's 2012/13 UEFA Europa League campaign will end on matchday six, with their guests AC Sparta Praha already sure of second place in Group I.

Group I permutations
• Olympique Lyonnais are through as group winners.

Sparta are through as runners-up.

• Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC and Athletic are out.

Previous meetings
• Sparta won 3-1 on matchday two as Athletic's first meeting with a Czech side ended badly. Goals from Tomáš Zápotočný and Bekim Balaj set Vítězslav Lavička's side on their way before Josef Hušbauer's 56th-minute penalty sealed their first Group I points. Óscar de Marcos struck back for the Bilbao side on 73 minutes.

• Sparta had lost their previous seven games against Spanish sides (including four home defeats) prior to matchday one – a run that stretched back over 20 years to a 1-0 victory against FC Barcelona in the group stage of the European Champion Clubs' Cup on 1 April 1992.

• Sparta's 16 games against Spanish clubs have ended W5 D1 L10 (W4 D0 L5 in Prague – W1 D1 L5 in Spain). They have not scored in their last three visits to Spain, conceding nine goals in the process.

Match background
• Athletic's 3-2 defeat by Olympique Lyonnais on matchday four ended a 12-game unbeaten home run at San Mamés in European games (W7 D5) since a 3-0 loss to SV Werder Bremen in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage.

• Athletic came into their fourth group stage in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League with a 100% record, having qualified for the knockout phase in each of their three previous appearances.

• Sparta have not won in three European games on their travels, but recorded two draws in that spell – 2-2 at Feyenoord in this season's UEFA Europa League play-offs and 1-1 at Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC on matchday four.

Team facts
• Sparta are within three goals of their 100th in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League; this will be their 70th game in the two competitions.

• Sparta boast Spanish talent in the form of defender Pablo Gil, who played for Albacete Balompié and Real Madrid CF's B team before coming to the Czech Republic.

• Sparta midfielder Jiří Jarošík also has experience of Spanish football, having played for Real Zaragoza between January 2010 and May 2011.

• Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa was a midfielder in his native Argentina, initially with CA Newell's Old Boys, the club where he started his coaching career. Briefly boss of RCD Espanyol in 1998, the studious Bielsa was in charge of Argentina (1998-2004) and Chile (2007-11) before coming to Bilbao, where he reached the finals of the Copa del Rey and UEFA Europa League in his first season.

• Vitězslav Lavička represented Sparta in three spells as a midfielder in the 1980s and 1990s, and is now in his second term as the club's coach, following a spell in charge in 2008. Once coach of the Czech Under-21 side, he won the Australian title with Sydney FC in 2009/10 before returning to Prague in 2012.

Last updated: 03/12/12 16.12CET

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