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Osasuna embark on all-Spanish affair in UEFA Cup semifinals
2007-04-24 10:26:14 Xinhua English

MADRID, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Osasuna will try to stop Sevilla from making their second successive UEFA Cup final as the Spanish rivals meet for the first time in European competition in Pamplonaon Thursday for their semifinal first leg.

Following are the backgrounder of the two teams:

The two sides have met on 56 occasions in the Primera Division.Sevilla have the upper hand, with 22 wins to Osasuna's 20, and 14 games drawn.

They have already played each other twice in the league this season. Sevilla won 2-0 at home with a Frederic Kanoute penalty and a late Adriano goal doing the damage on November 5. The return match in Pamplona on April 1 ended in a goalless draw.

Sevilla have faced domestic opposition in three previous European ties, losing the first leg of their European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final at Real Madrid 8-0 in 1957/58 before a 2-2 draw in the return.

They met Barcelona in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup third round, drawing1-1 at home and losing 3-1 at Camp Nou but avenged that defeat in the 2006 UEFA Super Cup final as Renato, Kanoute and Enzo Maresca scored in a 3-0 victory in Monaco.

This is the 10th occasion in which sides from the same country have come face to face in the UEFA Cup semi-finals. Six of those previous occasions involved German clubs, the most famous being the 1979/80 semi-finals which were contested exclusively by Bundesliga sides.

Teams from England and Italy have also met fellow countrymen inUEFA Cup semi-finals, while there has been one previous all-Spanish tie at this stage.

In the 2003/04 competition Villarreal and Valencia meet in the last four, with the latter going through 1-0 on aggregate, winningat home following a goalless draw in the first leg.

Spanish sides have also met in four previous semi-finals in theEuropean Cup. Real Madrid overcame neighbours Club Atletico de Madrid in the 1958/59 semi-finals and knocked out Barcelona the following season. Valencia beat Barca in the 1999/00 UEFA Champions League semis, and Madrid defeated the Catalan side again in the last four in 2001/02.

The quarter-finals of the 2000/01 UEFA Cup featured two all-Spanish ties with Deportivo Alaves taking on a Rayo Vallecano side under current Sevilla coach Juande Ramos. Alaves won 3-0 at home and lost 2-1 away, while in another last-eight game, Barcelona won 2-1 at home to Celta de Vigo and progressed on away goal despite a 3-2 second-leg defeat.

The UEFA Cup holders are looking to become only the second sideto successfully defend the trophy. Real Madrid are the only side to retain the UEFA Cup, winning the competition in 1985 and 1986.

Osasuna reached the knockout phase as runners-up in Group D. They then overcame Girondins de Bordeaux with Javad Nekunam's last-minute extra-time goal after 209 goalless minutes deciding their Round of 32 tie.

Jose Angel Ziganda's side drew 1-1 at Rangers but won 1-0 at home to progress through the Round of 16 and pulled off a major coup in the quarter-finals winning 3-0 at Bayer Leverkusen before triumphing 1-0 at home.

Sevilla reached the knockout stage by finishing second in GroupC. They then overcame Steaua Bucuresti 2-0 away and 1-0 at home to seal their passage to the last 16.

After a 2-2 draw at home against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Round of 16 their future in the competition looked in doubt, but an added-time goal from goalkeeper Andres Palop earned them a second 2-2 draw in Ukraine, with Ernesto Chevanton's extra-time effort securing a 5-4 aggregate victory.

They reached the semi-finals with a 2-1 home win and a 2-2 away draw against Tottenham Hotspur.

Kanoute scored Sevilla's second goal in the second leg against Tottenham, the team's 100th in UEFA club competition.

Osasuna have never before appeared in a UEFA club competition semi-final. Prior to this season, their greatest continental achievement was reaching the third round of the 1991/92 UEFA Cup. The second leg against Sevilla will be Osasuna's 14th European game of the season. Prior to 2006/07, they had only played 12 European games in total in three previous campaigns.

Sevilla are appearing in their second European semi-final, having overcome Schalke 04 1-0 on aggregate in last season's last four en route to their 4-0 win against Middles brough in the final.

Osasuna have scored 16 goals in their 12 UEFA Cup games this year, conceding seven. In addition, they scored once and conceded once in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, losing to Hamburger on away goals.

Ziganda's men have proved to be at their most dangerous in the second half of games, scoring ten of their goals after the interval, five of them between the 61st and 75th minutes.

Goals have been shared out fairly evenly between the squad, with midfielders Patxi Punal and David Lopez leading the way with three apiece.

Sevilla have scored 25 goals in their 12 UEFA Cup games this season, conceding ten.

Ramos's side have proved to be a menace at the start and end of games. Six of their goals have been scored in the first 15 minutes of games with six more in the last 15 minutes and added time.

Ernesto Chevanton has been the holders' top scorer with four goals, Kanoute and Luis Fabiano chipping in with three each.

Osasuna have yet to lose a home European game this season, remaining unbeaten in all seven of their games at the Reyno de Navarra Stadium since starting their European campaign with a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie against Hamburg. They have not lost a European home game since December 1991, when AFC Ajax beat them 1-0 in the UEFA Cup third round, eight games ago.

Sevilla have not lost in six UEFA Cup away games this season and last tasted defeat on their travels on 9 March 2006, eight games ago, when they were beaten 1-0 at Lille Metropole in the 2005/06 Round of 16 first leg.

Osasuna have been a useful side away from home in Europe this season, losing just once in seven outings - a 3-1 group stage defeat at Lens - and securing 3-0 wins at both Parma and Leverkusen.

Sevilla's only defeat in this season's UEFA Cup came at home as they went down 2-1 against AZ Alkmaar in the group stage, their first home reverse in 27 matches in UEFA club competition. They have since remained unbeaten in their four UEFA Cup home games.

Having avoided any bookings in the second leg against Leverkusen, Osasuna will welcome back David Lopez and Enrique Corrales from one-match bans, but Raul Garcia, Valdo, Josetxo Romero, Pierre Webo, Javier Flano and Roberto Soldado are all under threat of missing the second leg if they are booked in Pamplona.

Sevilla also managed to keep on the right side of the referee against Tottenham, but Julien Escude, Jose Luis Mart and Ocio remain one booking away from suspension.

The return leg will be played in Seville on 3 May. The aggregate winners will face either Espanyol or Werder Bremen in the final at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on May 16.

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