SC Braga coach Domingos Paciência added his name to a growing number installing FC Dynamo Kyiv among the favourites to lift the UEFA Europa League trophy in May, yet the Ukrainian side are not looking beyond Portuguese opponents fast developing a giant-killing reputation.
Dynamo caught the eye by seeing off Manchester City FC in the round of 16 but their coach, Yuri Semin, is taking nothing for granted as his prepares his side for Thursday's home meeting with Braga. "They are playing some quality football at the moment, so I'm braced for a tough game," he warned. "They are physically impressive and work as a team – let's not forget they beat Liverpool."
Indeed, the Reds are the latest in growing collection of high-profile European scalps the Arsenalistas have claimed this season, including Celtic FC and Sevilla FC. Their UEFA Champions League group stage defeats by Ukrainian Premier League leaders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, says Semin, did not do them justice even if he remains confident this could be Dynamo's year.
"We can go further than two years ago [when they reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals]. We are stronger player for player, with more international experience." Artem Milevskiy, Badr El Kaddouri and Olexandr Shovkovskiy all spring to mind, and their availability after knocks that ruled them out of Saturday's 3-0 win against FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih is a major boost.
By contrast injuries deprive Braga of defenders Alberto Rodríguez and Elderson, though having extended their unbeaten run to eight games, including six wins, by coming from behind to defeat SC Beira-Mar at the weekend confidence is high. "We're not going to play for a draw or get preoccupied with not conceding," said coach Paciência. "Our goal is to win, and it's essential we score.
The quarter-finals is already a great achievement for us, but after beating the likes of Celtic, Sevilla and Liverpool we don't want to stop here. We respect Dynamo and in my opinion they're one of the tournament favourites. I think they are on a par with Shakhtar, very good tactically with a really impressive attacking line led by the great Andriy Shevchenko. However, we have 90 minutes tomorrow to prove ourselves."
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