Udinese Calcio's only previous UEFA Champions League group stage place was clinched seven years ago with victory against a Sporting Clube de Portugal side coached by José Peseiro, who is keen to turn the tables when his SC Braga side take on the Italian club in the play-offs.
Braga welcome Udinese for the first leg on Wednesday hoping for a similar outcome to their previous play-off two years ago, when they beat Celtic FC at the start of a memorable continental campaign that led all the way to the UEFA Europa League final. Peseiro, appointed by Braga in the summer, began the Liga on Saturday with a 2-2 draw at SL Benfica and is not letting his previous disappointment at the hands of the Zebrette concern him.
"That match against Udinese was a long time ago, and that won't have any influence on this game," said Peseiro, who will be without Maximilian Haas due to a knee injury and also has doubts over Paulo César, Yazalde and Éder.
"Any coach would love to be here," he added. "I'm ambitious – I want to win and be in the Champions League. Our team have the quality to get there and have proved that in recent years. They are Italians – they're careful, they don't give much away, and it was Italy that created the defensive system teams use nowadays. Udinese are very strong in the way they attack and defend, in the way they balance those aspects. We have to be patient, rigorous and choose the right moments to attack."
Yet to start their domestic campaign, Udinese are missing Colombian striker Luis Muriel due to a thigh problem, meaning Antonio Di Natale will probably be supported by Diego Fabbrini in attack with new signing Maicoseul on the bench. Another Brazilian arrival, Willians, should start in midfield with Giampiero Pinzi and Roberto Pereyra.
Last season Udinese went out to Arsenal FC at this stage but experienced defender Maurizio Domizzi believes their chances are better this time around. "I'm 32 and I don't know how many more chances I will have to play in the UEFA Champions League," he said. "We are all determined not to miss this opportunity. Last season, qualifying was only a dream. Now we feel more responsibility to achieve it. We are not favourites, but having a player like Di Natale in attack is always an advantage in these ties."
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