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Athletic Bilbao eyes first European final since 1977

Madrid (Spain) , Wed, 25 Apr 2012 ANI

Madrid (Spain), April 25 (Xinhua-ANI): Athletic Club Bilbao will look to their fans to help cheer the club into its first European final since 1977 when they entertain Sporting Club de Portugal in the San Mames Stadium on Thursday night.

Athletic need to overturn a 2-1 defeat from the first leg, but know that a single goal would qualify them for the final. The Basques also know that on the two previous occasions they have had to overturn a similar result from the first leg they have been successful, with the last time being against Lokomotic Moscow earlier this season.

With Athletic already assured of a place in the final of the Copa del Rey, the atmosphere in Bilbao is electric and the game is sold out. Not only that but the fans have decided to form a guard of honor to cheer the team bus the short distance from the club hotel to the ground before the game.

San Mames is probably the ground in Spain with the best atmosphere in major games and Sporting will need to show great personality in order to come out of the game on top. Meanwhile Oscar de Marcos is suspended for Athletic and will probably be replaced by Ibai Gomez in the starting 11.

Meanwhile Iker Muniain will also play after missing the weekend win in Santander through an eye infection.

The side that emerges triumphant from San Mames will certainly face a Spanish side given that Valencia and Atletico Madrid play the other semi-final. A fantastic performance from Radamal Falcao helped Atletico to a 4-2 win in the first leg, although Valencia would qualify with a 2-0 triumph in the return match.

Roberto Soldado is back in attack for Valencia, whose coach Unai Emery will repeat the side which won 4-0 at home to Betis at the weekend.

Meanwhile Atletico coach Diego Pablo Simeone welcomes back Gabi Fernandez, Juanfran Torres, Joao Miranda and Mario Suarez, all of whom were suspended from the first leg. (Xinhua-ANI)

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