Paciencia: We can beat Porto
Braga coach Domingos Paciencia believes FC Porto can become a major force in next year's UEFA Champions League, but insists his team can upset the odds and beat the Portuguese champions in tomorrow's UEFA Europa League final.
Both sides are now in Dublin ahead of the first all-Portuguese Europa League final, with Porto overwhelming favourites to win their second trophy in a remarkable season under the guidance of rookie manager Andre Villas-Boas. The 33-year-old led the club unbeaten through their domestic campaign to clinch the league with five games to spare in his first season in charge.
That ensured Os Dragões would be back competing among Europe's elite next term, but there will be even more cause for celebration in Portugal's second city if Villas-Boas can add the Europa League and the Portuguese Cup to the club's trophy cabinet this week.
Bookmakers rank Braga as 7-1 outsiders to win Europe's second club competition tomorrow night, but Paciencia maintains the club can bring an end to the favourites' stellar season and win his club their first silverware since 1966.
"Porto have always had a very strong team, and right now Porto are a team that could do well in the Champions League. They are a Champions League club," said Paciencia, who will lead his team out for the last time tomorrow night at the Aviva Stadium.
"In a final, and given how the season has gone, it's natural that Porto are big favourites. But it's a final - it's just one match. With the right inspiration and motivation, many situations can occur in a match that can get you a goal. That is what makes us believe it's possible to win."
Braga finished 38 points behind Villas-Boas' all-conquering outfit and they warmed up for tomorrow's game with a disappointing home defeat to Sporting Lisbon in their final league match of the season on Saturday.
They have saved their best form for the continent this term, though, overcoming Sevilla and Celtic in the Champions League play-offs to make the group stages where Arsenal edged them out in the running for a place in the knockout phase.
Since dropping into the Europa League they have beaten Liverpool, Dynamo Kiev and last year's Portuguese champions Benfica to reach the final, giving former Porto striker Paciencia reason for optimism ahead of tomorrow's final in the Irish capital.
"All matches are a great motivation, particularly against great teams," Paciencia told uefa.com. "When you face a Liverpool, a Dynamo Kiev, even the champions of Poland, Lech, those are big names, and automatically the players gain motivation. I also think the players' capacity for hard work and their daily efforts are reflected in where they are now."
The record-breaking form of striker Falcao has played a huge part in ensuring Porto's passage to the final, but the club's solid defence has also been key to their success, particularly in the league.
Porto conceded just 16 goals on their way to securing their 25th title this year and goalkeeper Helton insists there will be no let-up in his side's pursuit of their next piece of silverware. "All players have worked for this," the Porto skipper said. "We've got a squad that fights for the same objectives.
"Leading up to the final it'll be the same: we'll think the same way, work the same way - we don't have to improve or stop doing something because we've reached the final. The objective is always the same."