Former Athletic Bilbao great Andoni Goikoetxea has tipped the current Europa League entertainers to beat Portugal’s Sporting and set up an all-Spanish final in Bucharest next month.
The Basque club, coached by the eccentric Marcelo Bielsa, is aiming for a meeting on May 9 against Atletico Madrid or Valencia, who start the other semi-final at the Calderon on Thursday. Goikoetxea was part of the Bilbao side knocked out of the old UEFA Cup by Sporting 27 years ago, the only previous meeting between the sides. “It will be tough but I’m optimistic because I think Bilbao are a better team, and for this reason I’m convinced they will play the final,” the former Spain international told sports daily Marca. “This team has the chance to make history. They already have a King’s Cup final [against Barcelona next month] and we’ll see what happens in the Europa League.” Bilbao has never won a European trophy but have thrilled neutral fans with a 5-3 aggregate victory over Manchester United and a 6-4 roller-coaster win over Schalke 04 in the quarterfinals.