Bielsa: Sporting will counter-attack

Athletic Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa believes he knows what to expect from Sporting Lisbon, his team’s Europa League semi-final first-leg opponents.

“Sporting are a team that concedes the initiative and plays on the counter-attack,” said the Argentine, who admits he has watched countless video of the Portuguese team since Bilbao qualified for the last four.

“It is a legitimate tactic and their aim is to make the defensive area smaller whilst opening up the offensive part of the pitch. That also means giving the opponent more attacking options. I see Sporting as an aggressive, committed and involved side,” he added.

The Basques will be roared on by over 5,000 fans at the Estadio Jose Alvalade and Bielsa is expecting a more cautious approach from Athletic’s rivals than their two previous opponents, Schalke and Manchester United, although he insists anything can happen and that football is ‘unpredictable’.

Sporting Coach Ricardo Sa Pinto considers Bielsa to be one of the best tacticians in the world and has commented in the build-up to the game that he ranks alongside Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in that respect. However, Bielsa believes he is exaggerating:

“I do not deserve to be up there next to those two,” he insisted, while denying the semi-final is an extra motivation. “Whenever there is a football match I am equally excited. If one day I am not then I will worry about it,” added Bielsa.

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