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FC Metalist Kharkiv have arrived in Lisbon determined to underline their reputation as the UEFA Europa League's arch-entertainers, but Sporting Clube de Portugal and coach Ricardo Sá Pinto are determined to make the mantle their own over the course of this quarter-final tie.
With 25 goals since the start of the group stage and a swaggering style borne of a strong South American contingent, Metalist are the tournament's top scorers – not that Sporting left-back Emiliano Insúa needs any introduction to their strengths. "We have seen some of their matches," he said. "They have the best attack in the competition, but we face every team the same way: being humble, working hard and showing our opponents respect, recognising their strengths."
Coach Sá Pinto, whose side eliminated Manchester City FC in the last 16, has also been keeping tabs on the Ukrainian team. "They had a very impressive group stage and eliminated Olympiacos FC in the last round. We have to be serious and rigorous, with a will to win. I don't see any weaknesses in Metalist. Any team that comes here having been so dominant against good opponents must have class in all departments, so we have to be alive to that and do our job."
Sá Pinto's praise did not go unnoticed by Metalist boss Myron Markevich, who spoke of his desire to prove his counterpart right, even if he acknowledges that it will not be easy. "Sporting are a strong team playing particularly well in the Europa League – their elimination of Manchester City is evidence of that," said the 61-year-old, whose own charges suffered only their second defeat in 14 games on Saturday, going down 4-2 at FC Arsenal Kyiv.
"I agree with something else that Sá Pinto said, though: that there are no favourites in this tie. It's 50-50. I think the match will be hard for us, but we'll try to be united and play our own game while retaining full respect for them. We always play the same way." On the evidence of their campaign to date, that is cause for concern even for a Sporting side that collected a sixth successive home win on Saturday, beating CD Feirense 1-0.
The Lions have also won all four of their previous games against Ukrainian outfits, but statistics make no difference to Sá Pinto. "Our approach is always the same: play good football, respect the other team and remain balanced and focused," he explained. "We want the fans to be proud of us tomorrow, so we must go for the win. Sporting are not the favourites here. At this stage, there are no favourites – no home advantage, nothing."
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