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Sporting Clube de Portugal will look to prevent an all-Spanish UEFA Europa League final as Athletic Club visit the Portuguese capital in their semi-final opener.
• These sides' only previous meetings came in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup third round, where Javier Clemente's Athletic beat Sporting 2-1 in Bilbao before succumbing 3-0 in Lisbon. Manuel José's team bowed out to 1. FC Köln in the next round, the quarter-finals.
• Manolo Sarabia (13) and Julio Salinas (58) put Athletic ahead in the first leg, but despite Jordão's dismissal just after the hour, Raphael Meade (72) struck back for Sporting.
• The second leg was a cruise for Sporting, with Manuel Fernandes (20), Meade (56) and António Sousa (74) scoring in a 3-0 win.
• The teams for that game on 11 December 1985 were:
Sporting: Damas, Gabriel, Venâncio, Morato, Fernando Mendes, Carlos Xavier (Oceano 66), Sousa, Jaime Pacheco, Mário Jorge, Manuel Fernandes (Saucedo 76), Meade.
Athletic: Zubizarreta, Urquiaga, De la Fuente, José Núñez, Goikoetxea, De Andrés, Julio Salinas (Argote 61), Gallego, Sarabia, Urtubi, Francisco Salinas (Noriega 45).
• Sporting's record in 18 games against Spanish sides reads W5 D5 L8 (W5 D2 L2 at home). They have not won in six matches against Spanish teams since beating Real Madrid CF 2-1 in a UEFA Cup first round game on 27 September 1994, in which current coach Ricardo Sá Pinto was one of the scorers.
• Athletic's six contests against Portuguese sides have ended W4 D1 L1 (W1 D1 L1 in Portugal) with that lone defeat coming against Sporting. The Bilbao side have yet to keep a clean sheet against a Portuguese club.
• Sporting are unbeaten in 11 European home games (ten wins and a draw, including a run of seven straight victories this season) since a 2-0 loss to Brøndby IF in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs.
• Athletic have won four of their six away matches since the start of the group stage, and are on a five-game unbeaten run in Europe.
• Both clubs are nicknamed the Lions, and both have domestic cup finals to look forward to: Sporting take on A. Academica de Coimbra in the Portuguese decider on 20 May, with Athletic meeting FC Barcelona in the Spanish equivalent five days later.
• Athletic's top scorer this season is Fernando Llorente with six strikes since the start of the group stage, one more than Sporting’s top marksman, Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
• Sporting have scored 17 goals in 12 games since the start of the group stage. They are at their most dangerous either side of the break: nine of those strikes came between the 31st and 60th minutes.
• Athletic are the second most prolific side left in the competition with 24 goals, one fewer than Club Atlético de Madrid. The Bilbao club are particularly strong at the end of the first half with six goals between the 31st and 45th minutes, and have hit seven between 61 and 75 minutes.
• Dutch midfielder Stijn Schaars is the only player to have featured – and indeed started – in all of Sporting's UEFA Europa League games since the start of the group stage.
• Andoni Iraola, Markel Susaeta and Iker Muniain are the only players to have featured in all 12 of Athletic's games since the start of the group stage, starting 11 each.
• Sporting are two goals shy of conceding their 150th in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League. This will be their 144th game in the two competitions.
• Domingos Paciência was dismissed as Sporting coach in February, having led SC Braga to last season's UEFA Europa League final, where they lost 1-0 to FC Porto in Dublin.
• Youth coach Ricardo Sá Pinto was named Paciência's replacement. The former Portugal forward had two spells with Sporting (1994-97, 2000-06) and played abroad with Athletic's Basque rivals Real Sociedad de Fútbol and R. Standard de Liège.
• Sá Pinto's four Basque derbies against Athletic as a Real Sociedad player ended W2 D2 L0. He scored in a 3-1 home win against Athletic on 8 November 1998.
• Athletic's coach is former Argentina defender Marcelo Bielsa, who briefly led Espanyol in 1998 before taking charge of Argentina (1998–2004) and Chile (2007–11). This is his first season as a player or coach in UEFA club competition.
• Sporting's Matías Fernández played in Spain with Villarreal before joining Sporting in 2009, and played under Bielsa for Chile, joining his coach at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.
• Whoever prevails in this tie will be the nominal away side in the final in Bucharest's National Arena on 9 May.
• Athletic have never played in Bucharest. Sporting lost in their only previous visit to the Romanian capital.
• Athletic have never met any of their potential final opponents in UEFA competition, though they have seen plenty of Club Atlético de Madrid and Valencia CF in the Spanish league.
• Of the sides they could meet in the final, Atlético are the only one Sporting have encountered before, losing on away goals in the round of 16 in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League, which the Spanish side went on to win.
• If Athletic beat Sporting, the competition will be decided in an all-Spanish final. That was also the case in the UEFA Cup final in 2006/07, when Sevilla FC beat RCD Espanyol on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
• Of the last nine editions of this competition, four have been won by Spanish sides, with two going to Portuguese clubs.
• In 2010/11, the UEFA Europa League semi-finals featured three Portuguese teams and one Spanish one; the situation is reversed this time around, with three Spanish clubs and one from over the border in Portugal.
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here:
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