Champions League: CFR starts qualifying campaign with Braga confrontation


Romania’s champion CFR Cluj begin tonight their Uefa Champions League campaign with a Group H away fixture against SC Braga (Portugal).SC Braga have never faced Romanian opposition before but CFR 1907 Cluj will hold few surprises given their squad contains six Portuguese players and three Braga old boys, according to uefa.com.For Romanian title holders CFR this is a third UEFA Champions League campaign in five seasons, after appearances in 2008/09 and 2010/11. In both instances they finished bottom of their group with four points.After winning their first UEFA Champions League away fixture at AS Roma in 2008/09, CFR lost the following five. However, they can take confidence from their two away successes in this season’s qualifying rounds – winning 2-1 at both FC Slovan Liberec and FC Basel 1893. The latter was the first victory by a Romanian club in Switzerland.Braga will hope to avoid the kind of false start they suffered on their debut UEFA Champions League campaign in 2010/11, when they lost 6-0 at Arsenal FC and 3-0 at home to FC Shakhtar Donetsk in their first two fixtures. They recovered to finish third in their section – winning their two remaining home games – and went on to reach the final of that season’s UEFA Europa League.Third in Portugal last term, Jose Peseiro’s team reached the group stage by beating Udinese Calcio on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw in the play-offs. Including their 1-1 first-leg draw with Udinese they have won just two of their last six home fixtures in UEFA competition.Peseiro was in charge of FC Rapid Bucharest between July 2008 and January 2009, working with Vasile Maftei. He earned a 1-0 home win against CFR in his third league match as Rapid coach.CFR’s connections with Braga extend to their recent coaches. António ‘Toni’ Conceição, a former Braga player and assistant coach, held the CFR reins between April and November 2009 and won the Romanian Cup. Jorge Costa, Braga coach in 2007, was in charge at the Cluj-Napoca club for most of last season.

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