Comfort of home gives Sporting incentive

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The Independent Football

Sporting Lisbon, the conquerors of Middlesbrough and Newcastle United in this season's Uefa Cup, go into tonight's semi-final first leg against AZ Alkmaar with the added incentive of knowing the final will take place at their own Jose Alvalade Stadium on 19 May.

Sporting Lisbon, the conquerors of Middlesbrough and Newcastle United in this season's Uefa Cup, go into tonight's semi-final first leg against AZ Alkmaar with the added incentive of knowing the final will take place at their own Jose Alvalade Stadium on 19 May.

"It would be really frustrating, especially when the final's being held in our stadium, to come this far and not get through the semis," their midfielder Hugo Viana said. Viana is back in the side after missing the quarter-final against Newcastle, who loaned him back to his former club this season.

Their captain Beto misses the game through suspension and will be replaced by the Nigerian international Joseph Enakarhire.

Sporting have not reached a European final since they beat MTK Budapest to win the 1964 Cup-Winners' Cup.

Unlike Sporting, the Uefa Cup represents AZ's last hope of silverware from an excellent season which hit the buffers in the last month, a haul of just one point from five games allowing PSV Eindhoven to seal the title with games to spare.

Injuries have started to bite and AZ, who lost the 1981 final to Ipswich Town, will miss winger Martijn Meerdink and defenders Joris Mathijsen and Jan Kromkamp. With central defender Barry Opdam suspended for his sending-off in the quarter-finals against Villarreal, coach Co Adriaanse will be forced to field an improvised back four.

"This means we're missing three players on the Netherlands' national team, plus one who should be on it," Adriaanse said. "The product AZ still has the same name, but if you look in the shopping cart, the content is different."

In the other semi, the Parma coach Pietro Carmignani's preoccupation with his side's relegation battle will mean he again fields a weakened line-up for their first leg against CSKA Moscow. The twice Uefa Cup winners, who have battled against financial problems since their parent company Parmalat ran into difficulties in 2003, are 19th in Serie A after a 3-0 weekend defeat by Milan.

Carmignani has rested key players throughout the competition, notably the Italy striker Alberto Gilardino who has started just three of Parma's 12 ties.

"Our priority right now is [the next league game against] Livorno, because avoiding relegation is the most important thing," the Parma defender Daniele Bonera said. "It is useless to win the Uefa Cup, if we are relegated to Serie B."

The Australia international midfielder Mark Bresciano is suspended for the first leg at the Tardini stadium.

Parma and CSKA have met in the competition once before - in the first round in 2002 when the Italians prevailed 4-3 on aggregate after clinching victory with a last-minute Adrian Mutu goal.

The Russian side will start favourites to reach their first European final on the strength of their excellent home form.

The only team left in the competition to have come in via the Champions' League have recorded home victories over Auxerre, Partizan Belgrade and Benfica.

Valery Gazzayev's side are without the suspended Russian international midfielder Evgeni Aldonin. The Lithuanian full-back Deividas Semberas is doubtful after suffering concussion in a cup match last week.

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