SC Braga may have had a jarring start to life in the UEFA Champions League, but ambitious coach Domingos Paciência is thirsty for more from the Portuguese newcomers.
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However jarring his side's introduction to UEFA Champions League group stage football may have proved so far, coach Domingos Paciência feels SC Braga have further heights to scale following their rapid rise.
The Portuguese outfit's tally makes for undeniably grim reading after two games in Group H, following a 6-0 defeat at Arsenal FC with a 3-0 home loss to FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Anything but ideal for a team that made headlines by ousting both Sevilla FC and Celtic FC in qualifying. However, the visit of FK Partizan on Tuesday will give them an opportunity to do what they have done best in previous months.
"We know we have to close the gap and compete on a level footing with the other teams," said Paciência, who replaced Jorge Jesus in June 2009 and promptly led Braga to runners-up spot behind Jesus's SL Benfica in the Portuguese Liga. "We in a competition where we're up against teams in a different boat to us, teams with a budget ten times the size of ours. To be able to match teams like that, we will have to see a very different Braga – a Braga side at the top of their game, playing their best."
Importantly, the Arsenal and Shakhtar losses have not dampened the enthusiasm around the Estádio Municipal de Braga. "I think we all realise what we have achieved here; it's something that has never happened in the history of the club before," explained Paciência. "We've been enjoying some incredible moments, both with what we did last year and getting into the Champions League. It was just very important for the club and the region here.
"It's our first time in the competition so it's only natural that it's tough, but it's important for us to get second or at least third place to stay in Europe," added the former FC Porto and Portugal striker. An ambitious statement after the fierce baptism his charges have endured, but the 41-year-old developed a lasting taste for success while claiming seven Liga titles and five Portuguese Cups in his playing days.
His first head coaching role came with UD Leiria in summer 2006. He left that post with the side eighth in the Liga the following March, then dragged A. Académica de Coimbra to seventh spot in 2008/09 – their best finish since 1985. Add in last year's exploits and it is easy to understand why he wants more from his team in Europe and a greater challenge to Porto, Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal on the domestic scene.
"I think Braga are, at the moment, the team nearest the best three sides in Portugal," he said. "Over the years, our country has revolved around three teams and the press focus mainly on that trio, so it will be very difficult to change that culture. But what I feel is that Braga have grown, even in terms of fans as we now have more fans nationally and that's down to what we've achieved recently. Going step by step, Braga can become a much stronger club in the future than it is now."