Sporting seeking Dutch double

Sporting Clube de Portugal hope to uphold their fine record against sides from the Netherlands when they face AZ Alkmaar.

Sporting Clube de Portugal are two matches from reaching the UEFA Cup final at their own stadium, the Estádio José Alvalade, on 18 May but must first overcome the considerable challenge of AZ Alkmaar, who have put together an run of six unbeaten games in the competition since the group stage.

The clubs are meeting for the first time in UEFA club competitions, and Sporting bring an impressive record against Dutch clubs into the semi-final encounter. Their success against Feyenoord in the first knockout stage of this season's campaign took their tally against Eredivisie opposition to nine wins in ten matches, and their fifth consecutive aggregate victory. Portuguese SuperLiga top scorer Liedson was the scourge of Ruud Gullit's side with a goal in each of Sporting's 2-1 wins to take a 4-2 aggregate win. Custódio opened the Portuguese team's account in the first leg in Lisbon, with Fabio Rochemback sealing the win in the return game.

Sporting's only blemish against Dutch opposition was also against Feyenoord, however; a 2-1 defeat in the return leg of the first round of the 1985/86 UEFA Cup. But the Portuguese team hung on to their 3-1 first-leg advantage despite a late bombardment on the Sporting goal.

The other games involving Sporting and Dutch clubs have all favoured the Lisbon club. In the 1958/59 Champion Clubs' Cup, Sporting enjoyed a 4-3 victory at DOS Utrecht before returning home to win 2-1, with Ivson de Freitas scoring four goals in the tie. They had to wait 30 years for the next encounter, in the first round of the same competition when Sporting shocked AFC Ajax after following a 4-2 home win with a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam. Two years later, in the third round of the 1990/91 UEFA Cup, they defeated SBV Vitesse 2-0 in the Netherlands before winning 2-1 at home.

Sporting have won five of their six home games in the competition this season, with the 1-0 group stage defeat by FC Sochaux-Montbeliard being their only reverse. Their biggest win was a 4-0 victory against FC Dinamo Tbilisi when Liedson scored a hat-trick. The Brazilian striker is the club's top scorer in the competition with eight goals, while only goalkeeper Ricardo has featured in all 12 games.

Alkmaar have never encountered Portuguese opposition in any of their 38 games in UEFA club competitions. The club are two games away from emulating the side of 1981, who reached the UEFA Cup final where they lost against Ipswich Town FC by a single goal. That season, Alkmaar also won a domestic league and cup double, and this term has proved the most rewarding since that era.

Alkmaar have suffered just one defeat in the competition to date - a 2-0 reverse at Grazer AK in the final group game when the club were already assured of a place in the knockout stages. Co Adriaanse's side have won four of their six away games in the competition and their overall record is nine wins, two draws and a defeat in their 12 games, with a goal difference of 21-11.

Eight different players have featured on the Alkmaar scoresheet, with Danny Laandzaat and Robin Nelisse both on target in the 2-1 win at Villarreal CF in the quarter-finals, and Kenneth Perez in the return 1-1 draw. The result saw an end to Spanish participation in UEFA competitions this season.

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