Fresh from a UEFA Champions League group debut, Sheriff make their first springtime European appearance as Portuguese Cup winners Braga visit Tiraspol.
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Fresh from an adventurous debut in the UEFA Champions League group stage, Sheriff make their first appearance in springtime European competition as Portuguese Cup winners Braga visit Tiraspol in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs.
• Sheriff made a sensational start to UEFA Champions League Group D, winning their first two matches, the second of them a momentous 2-1 triumph at Real Madrid. However, they would not claim another victory, finishing third behind Madrid and Inter but five points above Shakhtar Donetsk. Braga, meanwhile, completed a hat-trick of UEFA Europa League group stage qualifications by picking up ten points in Group F and finishing as runners-up to Crvena zvezda.
• This is Sheriff's first UEFA encounter with Portuguese opposition and Braga's first against a team from Moldova.
• Domestic champions for the 19th time – and sixth in succession – last season, Sheriff's 2020/21 European campaign ended early when they were beaten 5-3 on penalties by Dundalk after a 1-1 home draw in a one-off UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie.
• This term the Moldovan champions came through four UEFA Champions League qualifying ties – against Teuta, Alashkert, Crvena zvezda and, in the play-offs, Dinamo Zagreb (3-0 h, 0-0 a) – to reach the group stage for the first time. The only debutants in 2021/22, they beat Shakhtar 2-0 at home before shocking Madrid in the Bernabéu, but two 1-3 defeats by Inter and a 0-3 home loss against Madrid ended their hopes of further progress before they signed off, as guaranteed third-place finishers, with a 1-1 draw at Shakhtar.
• The only Moldovan side ever to have reached the UEFA Europa League group stage, having done so four times, in 2009/10, 2010/11, 2013/14 and 2017/18, Sheriff are now breaking new ground as the first from the country to play European football in the spring.
• Sheriff had won five successive home European games, and were unbeaten in seven (W6 D1), before losing to Inter on Matchday 4. Their home record in the UEFA Europa League proper is W4 D5 L3.
• Braga's 2021/22 UEFA Europa League group stage berth, and the club's 17th European qualification in the last 18 years, was achieved on two fronts – with a fourth-placed finish in the Portuguese Liga and a third Portuguese Cup triumph, which they secured with a 2-0 victory over Benfica in the final. Carlos Carvalhal's side also reached last season's UEFA Europa League round of 32, where they went out to Roma (0-2 h, 1-3 a).
• Runners-up to Leicester City in last season's group stage, they also had to settle for second place this term, a 1-1 home draw against Crvena zvezda on Matchday 6 leaving them in second place in Group F behind the Serbian champions, who had defeated them 2-1 in Belgrade on Matchday 1. Six of Braga's ten points came at the expense of Ludogorets (1-0 a, 4-2), while they took three off Midtjylland (3-1 h, 2-3 a) to finish one ahead of the Danish side.
• The team from northern Portugal are competing in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase for the seventh time – and fifth in the last seven seasons. Defeated in the round of 32 on each of their last three participations, their best performance came in 2010/11 when they finished as runners-up to local rivals Porto after crossing over mid-season from the UEFA Champions League. They were also quarter-finalists in 2015/16.
• Braga have lost four of their last six away games in the UEFA Europa League, winning the other two, and are without an away draw in the competition proper in 13 matches (W6 L7). Their all-time record on the road in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W2 D2 L7, including defeats in all of the last five fixtures, in which they have conceded 14 goals.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Stefanos Evangelou, Basit Abdul Khalid, Charles Petro
Out: Danilo Arboleda (Al Ain), Frank Castañeda (released), Mihai Cioban, Maxim Cojocaru (released), Nichita Corneencov (released), Cristiano (Fluminense), Fernando Costanza (Krylya Sovetov Samara), Dimitrios Kolovos (Kocaelispor)
In: David Carmo, Dinis Pinto, Bernardo Fontes
Out: Mario González (Tenerife, loan), Chiquinho (Benfica, end loan), Raul Silva (Estoril, loan), Lucas Piazón, Galeno (Porto)
Links and trivia
• Braga goalkeeper Matheus's next appearance in UEFA club competition will be his 50th.
• Sheriff skipper Gustavo Dulanto joined from Boavista in February 2021, having made ten appearances for the club in the Portuguese Liga, two of them, both victories, against Braga.
• In the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round Ricardo Horta scored two of Braga's three goals against a Zorya Luhansk side coached by current Sheriff boss Yuriy Vernydub, but the Portuguese side lost the tie on away goals (1-1 a, 2-2 h).
• This is Sheriff's 15th European game this season – a club record and the joint most, alongside Dinamo Zagreb, of the 16 teams competing in the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs.
• Sheriff are one of five reigning national champions in the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs, while Braga are one of four current domestic cup winners in the field.