Qarabağ picked up their first points on matchday four and need another victory as Sporting CP come to Azerbaijan.
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Having finally registered their first points of Group E on matchday four with a 1-0 victory at Vorskla Poltava after three successive defeats, Qarabağ know that they must win again, at home to Sporting, to stay in the hunt for a round of 32 place. Their Portuguese visitors, on seven points, can secure qualification with a positive result in Baku.
• Qarabağ failed to score in any of those opening three defeats, two of them at home to Arsenal (0-3) and Vorskla (0-1), but Araz Abdullayev's 13th-minute penalty proved enough to beat the Ukrainian side in the return fixture.
• Sporting opened their campaign with back-to-back wins, including a dramatic late turnaround away to Vorskla, but took just one point and failed to score in two games against Arsenal, drawing in London after a 0-1 defeat in Lisbon.
• The clubs broke new ground when they met in the Portuguese capital on matchday one – the home side prevailing 2-0 thanks to goals from Raphinha and substitute Jovane Cabral – as it was the first meeting in UEFA competition between clubs from Portugal and Azerbaijan.
• 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 a landmark UEFA Champions League adventure last term. 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 home record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W2 D4 L5, the only victories having come against Anderlecht in 2015/16 (1-0) and PAOK in 2016/17 (2-0).
• Qarabağ have won just two of their last nine European fixtures in Baku and are without a home win in six group games, five defeats supplemented by a goalless draw against Atlético Madrid in last season's UEFA Champions League. They have managed just one goal in those six contests.
• 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, they reached the quarter-finals last season after transferring from the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Sporting's UEFA Europa League group stage record away from Lisbon is W6 D2 L9. The 0-0 draw at Arsenal on matchday four ended the club's extraordinary run of 30 European away fixtures without a clean sheet – a sequence that had lasted more than seven years.
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.
• The red card shown to Jérémy Mathieu at Arsenal was the 11th received by a Sporting player in the UEFA Europa League, matching the competition record for a single club, group stage to final, held by Dynamo Kyiv.
• Should Sporting qualify for the round of 32, they will equal Ajax's record of seven appearances in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
• 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.
• Marcel Keizer was named as the new Sporting coach on 8 November, filling the gap left by the sacking of José Peseiro a week earlier. The 49-year-old Dutchman was lured to Lisbon from Al-Jazira in the United Arab Emirates, his previous job in Europe having been at Ajax, where he was promoted from the youth team in June 2017 to replace Peter Bosz as head coach but lasted only half a season. His playing career started at Ajax but was spent mostly in the Dutch Eerste Divisie (second tier) at Cambuur.