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Braga v Shakhtar Donetsk: Andre Pinto calls for unity

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 5 Apr 2016

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Andre Pinto believes Braga have a chance of surprising Shakhtar Donetsk in their Europa League quarter-final.

The Portuguese side saw off Fenerbahce in the round of 16 to book their place in the last eight, having previously beaten Sion in the first knockout round.

They head into Thursday’s first leg as the underdogs, but Pinto is hopeful they can get a good result at home and then seal qualification in the second leg.

“It’s not every year that the club can make it to the quarter-finals, so for us as a squad, it’s a great thrill,” he told UEFA’s official website.

“The key is our unity. We’re a united group and that has been demonstrated by everything we’ve achieved.

“We know Shakhtar are an excellent team. They are aggressive going forward but their defence is good too, and they’re used to these European competitions.

“We will stick to our principles and hope to gain an advantage in the home leg to enable us to qualify in Ukraine.”

Braga will have to make do without the services of Crislan and Rui Fonte due to hamstring injuries, while Josue is doubtful with a thigh problem.

Shakhtar, meanwhile, impressed in the previous knockout stages with comfortable wins over Schalke and Anderlecht.

They are wary of their opponents’ defensive strength, though, and Bernard expects a difficult tie.

“Even if we take the large number of Brazilians at both teams into account, I don’t think the teams are very similar,” the Brazilian forward told Shakhtar’s website.

“In some ways we are a bit similar, but in other aspects we are totally different. In general, Braga are strong and we are facing two tough games. 

“They are strong defensively and on the counterattack. The most important thing is to play our own game and make the most of our qualities.”

Shahktar coach Mircea Lucescu will be without Fred and Olexandr Kucher due to suspension, while Marcio Azevedo is unavailable due to a knee injury. Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Taison are all doubtful.

This will be the third competitive meeting between these two clubs in Europe. Shakhtar have won the previous two – in the 2010-11 Champions League group stages – without conceding.

Key Opta stats:
– This is the second time that Sporting Braga have reached the quarter final stage of the Europa League. In 2010-11 they eventually lost in the final to Porto.
– This will be Shakhtar’s first quarter-final appearance in a European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League, when they were knocked out by Barcelona.
– Braga are unbeaten in all five of their Europa League home matches this season (winning four and drawing one).
– There have been three red cards given in Shakhtar’s four Europa League matches this season.
– The Ukrainian side have won their last three European matches; their best run in Europe since March 2011 (five wins).

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