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Braga ready for shot at big time

SC Braga coach Domingos Paciência called on the competition debutants to "push ourselves to the very limits" as Sevilla FC visit on Wednesday fresh from victory against FC Barcelona.

Braga ready for shot at big time
Braga ready for shot at big time ©UEFA.com

Having eliminated Celtic FC, SC Braga will continue their attempt to make history and reach the group stage at the first time of asking when they welcome Sevilla FC in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League play-off opener.

The Minho-based outfit earned themselves a shot at Europe's premier club competition by finishing runners-up – their best ever placing – in the Portuguese Liga last term, and got their debut campaign off to a perfect start by defeating Celtic 3-0 at home in the third qualifying round first leg. A 2-1 loss in the return a week later did little to slow Braga's progress.

Coach Domingos Paciência, whose side opened their Liga campaign at the weekend with a 3-1 defeat of Portimonense SC, is now demanding even more against Sevilla. "We want to win and I hope we can push ourselves to our very limits as we will have more chance like that," he said. "It is not easy to face teams with the strengths of Sevilla but we can believe."

Braga, without injured goalkeeper Quim, defender Léo Fortunato and midfielder Mossoró, have managed to retain some of their key performers from last season. One of those, Vandinho, is the only player at the club who faced Sevilla when the teams met in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage, Braga's first encounter with Spanish opposition. Luis Fabiano and Javier Chevantón were on target that day as the Andalusian outfit recorded a 2-0 home win on their way to successive UEFA Cup triumphs.

Braga were then in the midst of a troubled campaign, going through three coaches: Rogério Gonçalves, Carlos Carvalhal and Jorge Costa. Things are different now, with their stock as high as it has ever been after running champions SL Benfica close last season.

Sevilla's Fernando Navarro is well aware that the 'Arsenalistas' – nicknamed as they share English side Arsenal FC's colours - are no mugs. "Maybe Braga are not a household name in Spain but we've been studying them and have seen just how dangerous they can be," the 28-year-old said.

While speculation has surrounded Fabiano's Sevilla future this week, they are definitely without injured trio Abdoulay Konko, Tiberio Guarente and Ivica Dragutinović but Lautaro Acosta and Navarro return, having recovered from thigh complaints that kept them out of the weekend's Spanish Super Cup first leg win against FC Barcelona. Sevilla recovered from going a goal down to win 3-1 with a goal after the break from  Fabiano and two for Frédéric Kanouté.

"We'll be using our second-half performance against Barça as a marker," left-sided defender Navarro concluded. "That's the standard we want to reproduce."

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