Matias Fernandez of Sporting Lisbon celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates scores the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester City FC and Sporting Lisbon. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Metalist Kharkiv and Sporting Lisbon's tie is very much out of the Europa League spotlight, but it won't be any less entertaining than the ties with bigger teams.
Even though Sporting Lisbon beat Manchester City and Metalist Kharkiv got to this stage by breaking Olympiacos' nine-game clean sheet streak, these teams are the competition's underdogs. The three La Liga sides, two German sides and AZ Alkmaar have more talent and are all in better league form, relative to their competition, than these two sides. Both will be underdogs against their semifinal opponent, if they win this tie.
That doesn't mean that this one isn't worth watching. These teams obviously had enough talent to get through the group stage of the competition, then win two knockout stage ties. They're good teams that will have a chance to upset whoever they play in the semifinals, and they should challenge each other.
Metalist have some solid domestic players, but they're a team that has been built, like a lot of Eastern European powers, on middle or low-cost South American stars. Captain Cleiton Xavier, Jose Ernesto Sosa, Taison and Jonathan Cristaldo lead their attack, and they have plenty of South American players in their defensive midfield and back line positions as well.
Sporting's fifth place in Portugal is not impressive and they almost choked away the City tie, but they're unbeaten in their last 10 European matches at home and they have a decent defensive record. They might play just to deny Metalist an away goal, and based on their match against City, they might be able to pull that off.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, March 29, 3:05 p.m. ET, 8:05 p.m. local
Venue: Estadio Jose Alvalde, Lisbon, Portugal
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), EuroWorld Sport (Canada)
We'll have individual previews and live coverage of every match in our UEFA Europa League Quarterfinals StoryStream.