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Sassuolo v Athletic background

UEFA Europa League debutants Sassuolo will received a very stern introduction to life in the group stage as they welcome Athletic Club in Group F.

Sassuolo after scoring a goal in qualifying
Sassuolo after scoring a goal in qualifying ©Getty Images

Debutants Sassuolo begin their UEFA Europa League Group F campaign against former finalists Athletic Club aiming to extend their undefeated start to life in European competition.

Previous meetings
• This is the clubs' first UEFA meeting and Sassuolo's maiden encounter with Liga opposition.

• Athletic's record in 17 matches against Italian sides is W8 D4 L5 (W1 D3 L3 away). Those fixtures include the 1977 UEFA Cup final against Juventus, who triumphed 2-2 on away goals after a 2-1 second-leg reverse in Bilbao.

Form guide
• Sassuolo and Konyaspor are the only clubs in the 2016/17 group stage who are in their debut European season.

• The Italian team are unbeaten in four UEFA competition fixtures to date (W2 D2), including 3-0 victories in both previous home games.

• Athletic have won four of their last five European away matches.

• Losing finalists in 1977 and 2012, Athletic have made it through four of their previous five UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns.

Links and trivia
• The journey from Bilbao to Sassuolo is around 1,100km.

• Sassuolo boast Spanish talent in teenager Pol Lirola, who is on a two-year loan from Juventus. The defender started his career with Espanyol and made one league appearance for their B side in November 2014.

• Sassuolo's Stadio Città del Tricolore was the venue for the 2016 UEFA Women's Champions League final.

• Aritz Aduriz and Fernando Llorente are Athletic's all-time top scorers in UEFA club competition with 16 goals each.

The coaches
• Eusebio Di Francesco's career high as a player was winning the Scudetto with Roma in 2000/01. The 12-times capped midfielder has since worked wonders at Sassuolo, guiding an attack-minded team from Serie B into Europe.

• Ernesto Valverde took charge of Athletic for a second time in June 2013, having led his old club from 2003 to 2005. The former forward later steered Espanyol to the 2007 UEFA Cup final, landed three Greek titles with Olympiacos and coached Villarreal and Valencia.

• Valverde has won 36 UEFA Europa League games as a coach, leaving him equal seventh in the competition's rankings. He will draw level with the late Sir Bobby Robson in sixth with another victory.