Athletic Club have drawn plaudits for their stylish progress into the last four of the UEFA Europa League. Semi-final opponents Sporting Clube de Portugal have snuck in under the radar by comparison, but Athletic captain Andoni Iraola is full of praise for the Portuguese outfit ahead of Thursday's opening instalment of their tie.
"They are a strong side with good players, such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel, a goalscorer always well served by the wings, where there's Diego Capel," said Iraola, who has featured in all 12 of Athletic's European games since the start of the group stage. "It's normal for full-backs to have problems with wingers, and with Capel it will be the same.
"I'll try to attack when I have chance while always remembering that I am a defender. They also have creative players such as Marat Izmailov and Matías Fernández, always with the support of both full-backs; they are a complete team."
Athletic came to the fore this term with a thrilling 5-3 aggregate victory against Manchester United FC in the round of 16, following it up with an equally eye-catching triumph over FC Schalke 04. For Iraola, though, their next test might just be the hardest yet.
"In the previous two rounds the opponents were more offensive teams, sides looking to score," added 29-year-old. "Sporting also have offensive resources and a good defence, so we don't know if the tie will be different or not.
"These are two sides that have had a good campaign, knocking out important clubs. Both teams have history; Sporting were in the UEFA Cup final some years ago [in 2005], so there is no clear favourite."
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