Villarreal v Sporting CP background

Villarreal and Sporting CP have plenty of UEFA Europa League experience with the Spanish side holding the upper hand in the tie.

Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza after scoring the first-leg winner
Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza after scoring the first-leg winner ©AFP/Getty Images

Villarreal are in pole position to reach the round of 16 for the fourth time as they host fellow UEFA Europa League thoroughbreds Sporting CP boasting a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Lisbon. The two clubs are competing in the knockout phase of the competition for a record-equalling seventh time.

• Villarreal progressed undefeated from a highly competitive Group G, drawing four times and winning twice at home. Their fifth qualification in five successive seasons for the knockout phase was sealed with a 2-1 matchday six win at home against Spartak Moskva.

• Sporting came through Group E as runners-up to Arsenal, their 13-point tally not only the best of all the second-placed qualifiers but better also than that of six group winners, Villarreal included.

Highlights: Sporting CP 0-1 Villarreal
Highlights: Sporting CP 0-1 Villarreal

Previous meetings
• A third-minute strike from midfielder Alfonso Pedraza – his first European goal – proved sufficient to give visitors Villarreal victory at Sporting as they went on to register a record-equalling fifth successive UEFA Europa League clean sheet. The home side finished with ten men after the 76th-minute dismissal of Marcos Acuña for two yellow cards.

• Villarreal have played only one previous knockout tie against Portuguese opposition, against Porto in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League semi-final, when they were beaten 5-1 in the away first leg before a 3-2 consolation victory in the return.

• Sporting have played 27 UEFA matches against Spanish opposition and won only seven, none of them in Spain, where their record is D3 L10. On their most recent cross-border trip they were defeated 2-0 at Atlético Madrid in the first leg of last season's UEFA Europa League quarter-final, which, coupled with a 1-0 win at home, made it seven aggregate defeats in nine two-legged European ties against Spanish teams, Sporting's last win coming in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup third round against Athletic Club.

Form guide
Villarreal
• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2017/18 Spanish Liga to qualify for Europe for the fifth successive season, all of them featuring UEFA Europa League group stage participation and subsequent progress to the knockout phase.

#UEL round of 32 first legs: Best goals
#UEL round of 32 first legs: Best goals

• In total they have made seven UEFA Europa League group appearances and have never finished outside the top two. They topped their section for only the third time this term, drawing at Spartak (3-3), Rapid Wien (0-0) and Rangers (0-0) and picking up seven points at home. Their best seasons in the competition were 2010/11 and 2015/16, when they reached the semi-finals.

• Villarreal have a 50% success rate in the round of 32, with three qualifications out of six. The victories came against Napoli in 2010/11 (0-0 away, 2-1 home) and 2015/16 (1-0 away, 1-1 home) and Salzburg in 2014/15 (2-1 home, 3-1 away); the defeats were by Wolfsburg in 2009/10 (2-2 home, 1-4 away), Roma in 2016/17 (0-4 home, 1-0 away) and Lyon in 2017/18 (1-3 away, 0-1 home). Their home record at this stage is W3 D1 L2, with the two defeats recorded in the two most recent ties.

• Villarreal have lost five of their last 12 home fixtures in Europe, winning the same number. Prior to that sequence, however, they had won seven in a row, conceding just one goal in the process – all those games coming in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League campaign when they reached the semi-finals.

• On each of the seven occasions that Villarreal have won the first away leg of a European tie they have gone on to qualify, most recently against Astana in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs (3-0 away, 4-0 home). They have never previously won away in the first leg by a 1-0 scoreline.

Last 32 first legs round-up
Last 32 first legs round-up

Sporting
• 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 eight of its ten seasons – a record they share with Ajax and Salzburg. Their fifth successful qualification from the group stage in six attempts was achieved on the back of home and away wins against Qarabağ and Vorskla Poltava, although they failed to score against Arsenal (0-1 home, 0-0 away). Semi-finalists in 2011/12, they reached last season's quarter-finals after transferring from the UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Like Villarreal, Sporting have won three of their six UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties. Their successes came in 2009/10 against Everton (1-2 away, 3-0 home), 2011/12 against Legia Warszawa (2-2 away, 1-0 home) and last season against Astana (3-1 away, 3-3 home), but they were eliminated in 2010/11 by Rangers (1-1 away, 2-2 home), in 2014/15 by Wolfsburg (0-2 away, 0-0 home) and in 2015/16 by Bayer Leverkusen (0-1 home, 1-3 away). Their away record at this stage is therefore W1 D2 L3, the sole victory coming last season on the other side of the continent in Kazakhstan.

• That win in Astana is the only one Sporting have managed on their travels in 12 UEFA Europa League knockout phase fixtures (D4 L7). 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. They followed that with a 6-1 win at Qarabağ – the club’s biggest away from home in the UEFA Europa League.

• Only on one of the 11 occasions that Sporting have lost the first leg of a UEFA competition tie at home have they gone on to win it on aggregate – against Brøndby in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs (0-2 home, 3-0 away). In the three instances that they have lost the first leg at home with a 0-1 scoreline they have also suffered defeat in the second leg, most recently in that 2015/16 UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Leverkusen.

UEFA Europa League squad changes
Villarreal
In: Vicente Iborra, Xavi Quintillà, Ramón Bueno
Out: Nicola Sansone, Miguel Layún, Emmanuel Lomotey

Sporting
In: Luiz Phellype, Cristian Borja, Tiago Ilori
Out: Emiliano Viviano, Carlos Mané, Elves Baldé, Tiago Djaló, Daniel Bragança, Rodrigo Battaglia

Pick of the saves from the first legs
Pick of the saves from the first legs

Links and trivia
• Villarreal goalkeeper Andrés Fernández played briefly for Porto in 2014/15.

• Jérémy Mathieu played for Valencia between 2009 and 2014, before making a further 62 Liga appearances for Barcelona between 2014 and 2017. He played against Villarreal 13 times in all competitions (W8 D3 L2). During part of his time at Valencia (2011–13) he had Víctor Ruiz, now at Villarreal, as a team-mate.

• Acuña (Sporting) and Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal) are Argentina internationals.

• Acuña's red card in the first leg was the 12th shown to a Sporting player in the UEFA Europa League proper – a competition high.

• Villarreal and Sporting are appearing in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase for the seventh time – a competition record they share with Ajax and fellow 2018/19 participants Napoli.

• Villarreal are one of seven teams to have come through the UEFA Europa League group stage undefeated, and are now one of only four to have retained that status after the round of 32 first legs alongside Betis, Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt.

• Villarreal hold the record not only for the most games played in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (69), but also the most goals scored (117).

• Villarreal are on a run of five successive clean sheets in the competition. One more will break the all-time UEFA Europa League record that they currently share with Napoli, Salzburg and Arsenal.

Penalty shoot-outs
• Villarreal's record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L0:
4-3 v Torino, 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round
3-1 v Atlético Madrid, 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup final

• Sporting's record in two UEFA shoot-outs is W0 L2:
3-5 v Dinamo Minsk, 1984/85 UEFA Cup second round
3-4 v Napoli, 1989/90 UEFA Cup first round

The coaches
• First appointed on 25 September 2017, Javier Calleja was reinstated as Villarreal's coach on 29 January – just 50 days after being dismissed and replaced by Luis García Plaza. He represented the club as a player from 1999 to 2006, having started out at academy level with Real Madrid, and returned as a youth coach in 2012/13 after hanging up his boots. He was coaching the B team, a position he had held for only a few weeks, when he was originally promoted to the top job. Villarreal finished fifth in the Liga in his first season in charge.

• Marcel Keizer was named as the new Sporting coach on 8 November last year, filling the gap left by the dismissal of José Peseiro a week earlier. The 50-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 second tier at Cambuur.

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