With a UEFA Cup tie against holders Sevilla FC, a rollercoaster ride of a season at Portuguese side SC Braga is showing little sign of slowing down.
The appointment of Rogério Gonçalves as coach last week was just the latest installment in a frantic campaign for the northern club. They have barely been out of the headlines since coach Jesualdo Ferreira left at the end of last season, first taking charge of Boavista FC and then FC Porto, after three impressive campaigns at the helm. A stiff task therefore awaited his immediate successor, Carlos Carvalhal, and while he made reasonable progress in the Liga and led Braga into the UEFA Cup group stage, all was not well.
Not long after overseeing a fine 4-0 win against FC Slovan Liberec in the UEFA Cup to make up for an opening day Group C defeat at AZ Alkmaar, Carvalhal quit. "I can't live 24 hours a day for football - there are more important things in life," he said. "Only personal reasons would force me to leave this job and I'll keep them to myself." Thus, the poisoned chalice was passed on to Gonçalves, assisted by the former FC Porto and Portugal captain Jorge Costa. The new coach enjoyed a stirring start last Saturday, beating SL Benfica 3-1 in his opening game thanks to goals from José Carlos, Maciel and Paulo Jorge.
That result lifted Braga to fourth in the table, but Gonçalves was quick to give Carvalhal credit for the performance. "I think that this win has a bit of my work but a lot of it was down to the former coach," he said. "I just hope my players can keep up this attitude in every game." The 47-year-old will soon see whether that will be the case as his side take on Sevilla in Spain tonight. "It's true that we have a very difficult game ahead of us but then again I'm confident that the quality of my players can produce a positive result," said Gonçalves.
Right-back Luís Filipe, who briefly played in Spain for Club Atlético de Madrid back in 1999/00, added: "This is a must-win game because we cannot wait for the game against Grasshopper-Club to collect the points we need to qualify. We know that it's a though objective to achieve but I don't see why we can't win at Sevilla." Braga will be without influential Spanish midfielder Andrés Madrid, Hugo Leal and Pedro Costa through injury at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium, but with pure adrenalin seemingly fuelling their progress this season, supporters are holding on for another spectacle.
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