It is eight years since a Polish side graced the last 16 of a UEFA club competition but, 1-0 up after the home first leg of their UEFA Europa League tie against SC Braga, KKS Lech Poznań are on the verge of ending the wait. Having beaten Manchester City FC to finish ahead of two-time European champions Juventus in the group stage, coach José Maria Bakero admits he is starting to dream of a final meeting with one of his Spanish compatriots.
UEFA.com: The first leg in Poznan was played in difficult wintry conditions. The weather in Portugal is very different: could it be a big advantage for Braga?
José Maria Bakero: Well
, Lech are not just a winter team, they can play in any conditions. I would like to remind those who seem to have forgotten that we beat Manchester City 3-1 on a pretty nice pitch. Braga have their hopes of qualifying and we have ours. We did the first part of the job in Poznan and hope to finish it in Braga.
UEFA.com: Sunday's 1-0 home defeat by KSP Polonia Warszawa in the Polish Cup quarter-finals is not ideal preparation. Do you fear it could affect your players' morale?
Bakero: No, not at all. The match in Braga will be totally different. Polonia played really deep and failed to muster a single shot on goal. They got lucky, winning thanks to a Manuel Arboleda own goal. You cannot compare it with the Braga match as there the home team will have to attack.
UEFA.com: In the first leg, Artjoms Rudņevs took his tally to five UEFA Europa League goals this season, including a hat-trick at Juventus. He has been linked with a move away – will the rumours spoil his focus?
Bakero: Rudņevs is a fantastic lad. He's a very talented player and always willing to learn. I wouldn't discourage him thinking about a possible move away. In fact, I'm delighted about the gossip saying a lot of clubs want him and a few other Lech players. It's proof I'm doing well here. If so many clubs want Rudņevs, it means he's playing very well – thanks, at least in part, to my influence as coach.
UEFA.com: You had a good record against Portuguese teams as a player, winning every tie – is that a positive omen?
Bakero: I scored my first European goal against a Portuguese team. My Real Sociedad side lost 1-0 to Sporting in the first leg, but we beat them 2-0 at home and I scored. My overall record against Portuguese teams is quite good and I am eager to continue that as a coach.
UEFA.com: You recently admitted that you dream about reaching the Europa League final with Lech – is it just a dream or a realistic goal?
My motto is 'keep your feet on the ground but don't give up your dreams'. I'm focused on Braga as I know it will be a tough game, but at the same time I'm dreaming.
It would be fantastic to reach the final and play against one of the Spanish teams – Villarreal or Sevilla. Under my predecessor [Jacek Zieliński, whom Bakero replaced in November] and myself, Lech have done really well, with memorable games against giants like Manchester City and Juventus. We can do great things in this competition.
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