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Athletic v Torino preview

Having never managed to avoid defeat on Spanish turf, Torino FC need improvement in Bilbao if they are to edge their delicately poised tie with Athletic Club.

Óscar de Marcos and two-goal Maxi compete in the first leg in Turin
Óscar de Marcos and two-goal Maxi compete in the first leg in Turin ©Getty Images

History favours Athletic Club at the halfway stage of their delicately poised round-of-32 tie with Torino FC, the Italian club having lost on each of their four outings in Spain while the Basque club hold a daunting record against Serie A opponents in Bilbao. 

What they say
Ernesto Valverde, Athletic coach: "Torino know what they are doing and a team with a game plan is always dangerous, especially when they believes in it and play with as much conviction as Torino. The pitch is something we will have to consider. It is raining hard and it looks like that will continue, so the pitch could be heavy. That changes the game: free-kicks and corners become more significant. We have to be ready for that."

Giampiero Ventura, Torino coach: "It's an important game as this is Torino's first European campaign for 20 years and we're not ready for it to end. We must avoid the sort of big mistakes we made for the first goal in Turin. In the past two and a half months we have developed a real spirit and our belief has grown. If we play the second leg like we can we will advance but the players must avoid the nerves that plagued them last week."

Previous meetings
• The sides met for the first time in the first leg, with an entertaining 2-2 draw in the Stadio Olimpico leaving the tie in the balance. Iñaki Williams put the visitors ahead on his European debut but Maxi López's double appeared to have given Torino the initiative before Carlos Gurpegi rescued a draw. 

Athletic are unbeaten in eight home games against Serie A sides (W7 D1); the only Italian club to have avoided defeat in Bilbao is Juventus, who earned a goalless draw in an October 1998 UEFA Champions League game. Athletic overcame SSC Napoli 3-1 at home in this season's UEFA Champions League play-offs.

Torino have lost all four of their previous away games in Spain, scoring just once and conceding 11 times.

Form guide
Athletic's form at home has been inconsistent in Europe this season (W2 D1 L1).

Torino's record in five European away games this season is W2 D2 L1; they matched their best ever European away result with a 5-1 success at FC København in their last continental fixture on the road.

Athletic finished third in their UEFA Champions League group in the autumn after winning their final two games. They last featured in the UEFA Europa League in 2012/13, when they failed to get through the group phase. They made it to the final the previous season, losing 3-0 to Club Atlético de Madrid in Bucharest.

Trivia and links
Athletic's Kike Sola (29 on 25 February) and Aitor Seguín (20 on 27 February) have birthdays either side of the Torino game.

Torino are one of five sides to have progressed from the third qualifying round to the round of 32 along with BSC Young Boys, Club Brugge KV, FC Dinamo Moskva and PSV Eindhoven.

Torino last featured in the spring phase of a UEFA competition in 1994, when they succumbed to Arsenal in the European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals.

The coaches
• Ernesto Valverde spent the best years of his playing career with Athletic, where the 1.72m-tall forward was known as 'Txinguirri' (the ant). A Cup Winners' Cup winner with FC Barcelona in 1988/89, he was a losing finalist in the UEFA Cup with RCD Espanyol as both player (1988) and coach (2007). In his second stint as Athletic boss, he also landed three Greek titles at the Olympiacos FC helm.

• Giampiero Ventura led Torino back to Serie A after taking charge in 2011, and is now enjoying – at the age of 67 – his first campaign in Europe. Previously a player at UC Sampdoria, he once guided US Lecce from Serie C to Serie A, and also oversaw promotion to the top tier with Cagliari Calcio as well as winning a club-record 50 Serie A points with AS Bari in 2009/10.