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Benfica in sight of AZ success

Losing finalists last season, SL Benfica are closing in on the UEFA Europa League semi-finals again as they defend a 1-0 first-leg lead at home against AZ Alkmaar.

Goalkeeper Artur celebrates Benfica taking the lead in Alkmaar
Goalkeeper Artur celebrates Benfica taking the lead in Alkmaar ©AFP/Getty Images

SL Benfica reached last season's UEFA Europa League final and may fancy their chances of getting to Turin this time around as they defend a 1-0 quarter-final lead at home against AZ Alkmaar.

• Eduardo Salvio's excellent finish into an empty net early in the second half earned Benfica victory in the Netherlands, with AZ fading after having had the better chances before the break.

Previous meetings
• The sides met for the first time in UEFA competition in the first leg.

• Benfica's record in 22 meetings with Dutch clubs is W9 D8 L5 (W7 D1 L2 in Lisbon). Those overall fixtures include two matches on neutral territory – a 0-0 draw against PSV Eindhoven in the 1988 European Champion Clubs' Cup final (Benfica lost 6-5 on penalties) and a 3-0 defeat by AFC Ajax in a 1968/69 European Cup quarter-final replay.

• Benfica have won their last five games at home against Dutch opponents, with all three victories this century by margins of two goals or more.

• AZ's six games against Portuguese opponents have ended W3 D1 L2 (W1 D0 L1 in Portugal).

Match background
• Benfica are unbeaten in 11 European home games (W9 D2) since a 2-0 loss to FC Barcelona in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• AZ are unbeaten in six away games in Europe this season (W3 D3), but have averaged only one goal a game on the road since the start of the group stage. Prior to the first leg, AZ were the only quarter-finalists who had made it through the group stage who remained unbeaten in this season's competition.

• All the four surviving teams that crossed over from the UEFA Champions League round of 32 – Juventus, Benfica, FC Basel 1893 and FC Porto – are yet to lose in their five games.

• Benfica eliminated Newcastle United FC at this stage last season en route to a UEFA Europa League final defeat against Chelsea. They are in the quarter-finals of this competition for the fourth time in five seasons; they got no further in 2009/10, but reached the semi-finals in 2010/11 and the final in 2012/13.

• AZ last reached the quarter-finals in 2011/12, bowing out to Valencia CF, having also come unstuck at the same stage – against SV Werder Bremen – in 2006/07. They last made it to the semi-finals in 2004/05, losing to Sporting Clube de Portugal, and were beaten by Ipswich Town FC in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup final.

Team facts
• Benfica have loaned their Dutch striker Ola John to Hamburger SV for the remainder of the season, but have two other players with Eredivisie experience: midfielders Miralem Sulejmani (sc Heerenveen 2007–08, Ajax 2008–13) and Filip Djuričić (Heerenveen 2010–13).

• AZ defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and midfielder Viktor Elm played alongside Djuričić at Heerenveen (2010–13), while AZ midfielder Roy Beerens was a team-mate of both at the same club (2007–11).

• Along with Basel and Olympique Lyonnais, AZ are one of three sides in the quarter-finals yet to win a major UEFA trophy.

• AZ have conceded the most fouls in this season's competiton – 166 since the start of the group stage.

• AZ's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Gudelj has played in more minutes of this season's competition since the start of the group stage (980) than any other player. He has also committed the most fouls of any player left in the tournament (25).

• Salvio has made a record 38 UEFA Europa League appearances since the competition took on its current format; his goal in the first leg allowed Benfica to join PSV Eindhoven on 64 goals as the highest scoring clubs in the new competition.

• The competition's two most successful member associations this season, Spain and Portugal, boast two surviving clubs apiece, with Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and France taking one team through.

Coach information
• Benfica coach Jorge Jesus followed in the footsteps of his father Jesus Virgolino by signing for Sporting as a youngster and was a journeyman midfielder before moving into coaching. He took charge of a number of Portuguese clubs and was given the Benfica job in June 2009 after leading SC Braga to the last 16 of the 2008/09 UEFA Cup. He guided the Eagles to the title in his first campaign and to the final of last season's UEFA Europa League.

• Dick Advocaat was named AZ coach on 16 October, returning to the club where he spent five months in charge at the end of 2009/10. Twice Netherlands coach, he won the 2007/08 UEFA Cup with FC Zenit, as well as league titles with PSV Eindhoven (1997/98), Rangers FC (1998/99, 1999/2000) and Zenit (2007).

• Advocaat is the only man in the quarter-finals who has won this competition as a coach, though Juventus boss Antonio Conte lifted the UEFA Cup as a player.

• Advocaat's last professional engagement in Lisbon was the semi-final of UEFA EURO 2004, which his Netherlands side lost 2-1 to hosts Portugal at the Estádio José Alvalade.

Shoot-out record
• Benfica's record in UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L1:
4-1 (home) v PAOK, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup second round
5-6 (neutral) v PSV Eindhoven, 1987/88 European Champion Clubs' Cup final

• AZ's only UEFA penalty shoot-out ended in a 5-4 loss to FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the 1977/78 UEFA Cup second round.