Quarter-finalists last season, Sporting CP return against a Qarabağ side whose European campaign started in July.
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Last season's UEFA Europa League quarter-finalists Sporting CP begin their 2018/19 European campaign with a home fixture against a Qarabağ side with four qualifying ties already under their belt since they entered the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round back in July.
• Both clubs are in uncharted territory, with Sporting taking on a team from Azerbaijan for the first time and Qarabağ making their maiden trip to Portugal. Indeed, this the first meeting in UEFA competition between any clubs from the two countries.
• Sporting finished third in the 2017/18 Portuguese Liga. They suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Aves in the Portuguese Cup final, but nevertheless claimed a place in the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• The Lisbon club have been regular participants in the UEFA Europa League since its inception in 2009/10, featuring in the competition proper in seven previous seasons and the group stage in five of those, most recently in 2015/16. Semi-finalists in 2011/12, when they won all eight home fixtures, they reached the quarter-finals last season after transferring from the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Sporting have only ever lost once at home in the UEFA Europa League group stage, but that was on matchday one in 2015/16, when they went down 1-3 in Lisbon to Lokomotiv Moskva. Their overall record is W10 D4 L1.
• Champions of Azerbaijan for the fifth successive year in 2017/18, Qarabağ are also competing in a UEFA group stage for the fifth season running, three appearances in the UEFA Europa League preceding last season's landmark UEFA Champions League adventure. BATE Borisov blocked their route back into that competition this season, in the third qualifying round, but a UEFA Europa League play-off victory against FC Sheriff kept that sequence of group stage appearances going.
• Qarabağ have never extended a European campaign into the spring. Their away record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W2 D1 L6, the two victories against Dnipro in 2014/15 (1-0) and PAOK in 2016/17 (1-0).
• Qarabağ have scored just two away goals in four European encounters this term but have lost only one of them – the most recent, against Sheriff (0-1).
Links and trivia
• Qarabağ's Bulgarian midfielder Simeon Slavchev was on Sporting's books from 2014 to 2018 but did not play a single match for the first team, spending most of that time out on loan.
• Qarabağ's Polish defender Jakub Rzeźniczak played four European matches against Sporting for Legia Warszawa – in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League round of 32 and 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage – while Sporting's Dutch striker Luc Castaignos played for FC Twente against Qarabağ in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs, scoring in the home leg as Qarabağ went through on away goals.
• A UEFA Cup runner-up as Sporting CP coach in 2004/05, José Peseiro returned to the club in the summer of 2018 as the replacement for Jorge Jesus. A lower-league forward, he was Carlos Queiroz's assistant at Real Madrid prior to his first spell at Sporting and later took charge of several European and Middle Eastern clubs as well as coaching the Saudi Arabia national side from 2009–11. His last European involvement was with Braga in the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League.
• Qarabağ coach Gurban Gurbanov is Azerbaijan's highest-scoring international with 12 goals in 64 matches. While he regularly changed club as a player, he celebrated ten years as head coach of Qarabağ in August 2018, during which time he has led the club to five successive national league titles, four Azerbaijani Cups and regular European group stage involvement, including a maiden UEFA Champions League adventure in 2017/18. He has doubled up as the coach of Azerbaijan since November 2017.