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Sporting out to protect perfect record

A home win against FK Ventspils would secure Sporting Clube de Portugal's place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 as the Lions look to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group D.

Sporting out to protect perfect record
Sporting out to protect perfect record ©UEFA.com

A home victory over FK Ventspils would secure Sporting Clube de Portugal's place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 after a 2-1 success in Latvia on Matchday 3 made it three wins from three Group D games for the Lions.

Previous meetings
• The clubs met for the first time on 22 October in what was both Ventspils' first game against Portuguese opponents and Sporting's maiden meeting with a side from Latvia.

Match background
• Victory against Ventspils saw Sporting set a new club European best of seven games without defeat.

• Sporting's 1-0 Matchday 2 win against Hertha BSC Berlin was their first European home victory of the season, with the side having drawn their previous two ties at the Estádio José Alvalade.

• Group-stage debutants Ventspils' four away games this season have produced a win, a draw and two defeats, but they have scored at least once in all of those fixtures.

Team facts
• Sporting coach Paulo Bento is a former midfielder who was surprisingly handed the first-team job midway through the 2005/06 campaign after a spell as a youth trainer. His team's success in winning two Portuguese Cups and two Super Cups earned him the nickname 'Papa-Taças' (Cup Eater).

• Founded with the merger of FK Venta and FK Nafta in 1997, Ventspils made a surprise change of coach after they reached the UEFA Champions League play-offs. Italian Nunzio Zavettieri – a former AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano youth trainer and one-time assistant at Udinese Calcio – took over from Ukrainian Roman Grygorchuk, who had led them to three consecutive Virsliga titles.

• Ventspils boast Portuguese talent in the form of forward João Martins, who played for SC Lourinhanense, FC Alverca, GD Chaves and SCU Torreense before trying his luck in Russia with FC Sibir Novosibirsk.

• Martins, who played under Bento's assistant Carlos Pereira at Alverca, told uefa.com he had started his career in the Sporting academy: "I was 12 when I joined their academy, which is one of the best in the world. It is no accident it gave the world players like Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, who remain idols at Sporting, but it was very difficult for me and I ended up at Alverca."

• Four Ventspils players will have fond memories of Portugal, having been members of the Latvia squad that competed at UEFA EURO 2004™, though they never played a competitive game in Lisbon: Aleksandrs Kolinko, Andrejs Pavlovs, Vitālijs Astafjevs and Jurijs Laizans.

• Latvia and Portugal met in EURO '96™ qualifying, with Portugal winning 3-1 in Liepaja and 3-2 in the return in Porto. Ventspils midfielder Astafjevs played in both games.

• They also met in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Current Ventspils players Kolinko, Laizans and Astafjevs featured in a 2-0 home defeat by Portugal on 4 September 2004. Sporting's Marco Caneira came on as a substitute in that match, but Hélder Postiga remained on the bench.

• Caneira started and Postiga came on as a substitute as Portugal won the return fixture 3-0 on 12 October 2005, with Kolinko and Astafjevs contesting the full 90 minutes for Latvia.

• Ventspils committed fewer fouls than any other side in the group stage in the first three rounds of fixtures – just 24.

• Sporting host SC Heerenveen on Matchday 5, with Ventspils at home to Hertha on the same day, 3 December.