UEFA Europa League – Zorya-Athletic – Zorya v Athletic background
Zorya and Athletic Club come face to face in Lviv with qualification from Group J on the line.
• The Ukrainian side will be through to the knockout phase for the first time if they win, whereas a draw will suffice for their Spanish visitors, who are seeking a sixth participation in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• Athletic will top the group if they win and current leaders Östersund simultaneously drop points against Hertha in Berlin.
• Zorya’s first encounter with Spanish opponents was a memorable one as they shocked Athletic in Bilbao on matchday two, winning 1-0 with a 26th-minute goal from midfielder Ihor Kharatin. It was Athletic’s sole defeat in their last nine European home fixtures, the other eight having all ended in victory.
• Athletic’s only other matches against Ukrainian opposition were a pair of meetings with Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League group stage: a 0-0 home draw and a 1-0 win in Lviv, where this fixture is taking place.
• Zorya have won just three of their ten European fixtures on Ukrainian soil. They have kept only one clean sheet in their last 13 UEFA matches – that 1-0 victory away to Athletic.
• Athletic have not won away from home in six UEFA Europa League games, group stage to final (D3 L3). They have never won a matchday six fixture in the UEFA Europa League, losing the first two and drawing the last three.
• Third in Ukraine in 2016/17, Zorya are featuring in their second successive group stage; they were unable to make the round of 32 last term, failing to win any of their six matches (D2 L4) and scoring just two goals.
• Seventh in Spain last term, Athletic have successfully negotiated five of their six UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stages, including each of the last two. They were losing finalists in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup and 2011/12 UEFA Europa League.
Links and trivia
• The journey from Bilbao to Lviv, where Zorya have chosen to play their European fixtures this season, is around 2,200km.
• Athletic’s Raúl García was a 2009/10 UEFA Europa League winner with Atlético Madrid.
• Athletic’s Aritz Aduriz was top scorer in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League with ten goals, and became the second-highest scorer in the competition proper – after Radamel Falcao – when he lifted his all-time tally to 22 with two penalties in the 3-2 matchday five win at home to Hertha.
• This is Athletic’s 168th UEFA game – and Zorya’s 26th.
• Athletic’s Unai Nuñez is available after a one-match ban.
• Suspended for next match if booked: Oleksandr Andrievsky, Oleksandr Karavaev (Zorya).
• Yuriy Vernydub has been in charge at Zorya since stepping up from his role as assistant coach in November 2011, leading them to fourth and third-placed finishes in the last two seasons. He was a Russian Cup winner as a Zenit defender in 1999.
• Better known as ‘Cuco’, José Ángel Ziganda was a forward for Osasuna and Athletic Club, and later guided the Pamplona side to the 2006/07 UEFA Cup semi-finals as coach. He was handed the Athletic job in May 2017 after a six-year spell as B team boss.