By Luke McLaughlin
The journey to Lisbon and a place in the UEFA Cup final has been a gruelling one for all four teams participating in the semi-final second legs and they will be desperate not to fall at the penultimate hurdle tonight.
To exit a competition at the semi-final stage is always painful, but Parma FC travel to PFC CSKA Moskva with history on their side despite the goalless draw in last week's first leg, while AZ Alkmaar are seeking to overturn the 2-1 defeat they suffered at the hands of Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Parma have won all four of their European semi-finals and have also lifted the UEFA Cup twice - in 1995 and 1999. Pietro Carmignani's men also boast an impressive away record in this season's competition, losing only two of their six encounters.
In addition, CSKA have never beaten an Italian team at home, losing 2-1 against AS Roma in the 1991/92 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and drawing 1-1 with Parma in this tournament two years ago.
Meanwhile, Alkmaar will be hoping for a lively atmosphere at the Alkmaarderhout tonight, perhaps taking their cue from the Liverpool FC fans whose fervent support at Anfield was a major factor in their side overcoming Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
A late strike by Mauricio Pinilla, out of tonight's game after an injury in training, has given Sporting the edge but Alkmaar are a formidable prospect at home. Coach Co Adriaanse is without suspended midfielder Olaf Lindenbergh, but the manager has promised a positive approach, asserting: "We will have to be more attacking than we were in Lisbon."
Coverage of both semi-finals will be available on uefa.com this evening - catch all the action as it happens with our live text commentary.
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