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Athletic out to redress Sporting balance

Athletic Club will look to set up an all-Spanish UEFA Europa League final as they go into their semi-final decider at home against Sporting Clube de Portugal trailing 2-1.

Jon Aurtenetxe celebrates scoring in the first leg
Jon Aurtenetxe celebrates scoring in the first leg ©AFP/Getty Images

Athletic Club will look to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Sporting Clube de Portugal to set up an all-Spanish UEFA Europa League final in Bucharest on 9 May.

• Sporting trailed to a Jon Aurtenetxe (54) goal in Lisbon but turned things around in the space of four minutes with Emiliano Insúa's header (76) and a long-range finish from Diego Capel (80).

Previous meetings
• 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 teams for that game on 27 November 1985 were:
Athletic: Zubizarreta, Urquiaga, De la Fuente (Liceranzu 84), José Núñez, Goikoetxea, De Andres, Noriega (Julio Salinas 53), Gallego, Sarabia, Urtube, Argote.
Sporting: Damas, Gabriel, Venâncio, Morato, Fernando Mendes, Oceano, Sousa, Jaime Pacheco, Mário Jorge, Manuel Fernandes (Meade 64, Saucedo 89), Jordão.

• 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 Andres, Julio Salinas (Argote 61), Gallego, Sarabia, Urtubi, Francisco Salinas (Noriega 45).

Match background
• Athletic have won all of their home games against Portuguese teams, while Sporting are yet to win a European fixture in Spain.

• Athletic's seven games against Portuguese sides ended W4 D1 L2 (W3 D0 L0 at home) with both of those defeats coming against Sporting. The Bilbao side have yet to keep a clean sheet against a Portuguese club.

• Sporting's record in 19 games against Spanish clubs reads W6 D5 L8 (W0 D3 L6 in Spain). Prior to the first leg, they had not won in six games 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 are unbeaten in eight European home games – four wins and four draws – since a 3-0 loss to SV Werder Bremen in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage. They have scored two goals in five of their six home fixtures since the start of this season's group stage.

• Sporting have won only one of their last ten European away games, drawing four and losing five of the remaining nine.

Team facts
• 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 are the only side in the last four never to have won a UEFA club competition. The nearest they came was in 1976/77, when they lost the UEFA Cup final to Juventus.

• 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 19 goals in 13 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 25 goals, four 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 13 of Athletic’s games since the start of the group stage, starting 12 each.

• Sporting are one goal shy of conceding their 150th in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League. This will be their 145th game in the two competitions.

• Domingos Paciência was dismissed as Sporting coach at the start of 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, 39, 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 Fernandez played in Spain with Villarreal CF before signing for Sporting in 2009, and played under Bielsa for Chile, joining his coach at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.

Final focus
• 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 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.

• Sporting midfielder Fabián Rinaudo celebrates his 25th birthday on 8 May, the eve of the UEFA Europa League final.

Competition statistics
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here: