Birmingham v Braga preview

Team news for Thursday night's Europa League Group H opener between Birmingham and Braga at St Andrew's (kick-off 8.05pm).

Last Updated: 14/09/11 at 22:37

Hughton: Europa League an added burden

Hughton: Europa League an added burden

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

Birmingham manager Chris Hughton has admitted he could do without the added burden of the Europa League ahead of the game.

Te Blues face what Hughton describes as an "unforgiving" programme of fixtures in the run-up to Christmas that may yet have a damaging effect on their bid to return to the Premier League.

However, having qualified for the Europa League group phase, which starts on Thursday night with a clash against last year's runners-up, Hughton has every intention of enjoying the occasion.

"Can it be a hindrance? Yes, it can be," said Hughton, of a tournament that has not garnered much affection of late.

"But if you looked at the atmosphere and what the players gave in the home (qualifying) game with Nacional to get us to this stage, I don't think you would have seen it as a hindrance then.

"Could we do without the extra games? Yes, arguably we could do, but we're here, and once you're in these games they are exciting to play in."

City could not have asked for a much tougher opening fixture than against the number one seeds.

"They've great quality, no doubt about it," said Hughton.

"They are the favourites because of where they've been in recent seasons, and more so last season, so we are very conscious of that."

Hughton will again be without striker Nikola Zigic (groin), but fellow forward Marlon King is available despite missing training today.

Braga will be looking to maintain the sort of form that took them to the final against Portuguese countrymen Porto in Dublin in May where they were narrowly beaten.

They stand third in the Portuguese Liga, two points behind leaders Porto, with 10 points after four games.

The Arsenalistas took on two English teams in Europe last season. Their first outing ended in a chastening 6-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Champions League - although they did win the return leg 2-0.

After failing to progress in that tournament they entered the Europa League where they beat Liverpool 1-0 on aggregate in the last 16.

However, they will be hoping to improve their away form having lost all six of their last European games and that not including the defeat in Dublin.

Thursday night's match will be the first time the sides have met.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Europa League Fixtures

Thursday, 16 April 2015
20:05
Club Brugge v Dnipro  
Dynamo Kiev v Fiorentina  
Sevilla v Zenit  
Wolfsburg v Napoli  
Thursday, 23 April 2015
Dnipro v Club Brugge  
Fiorentina v Dynamo Kiev  
Napoli v Wolfsburg  
Zenit v Sevilla  

Footer 365

European Qualifiers round-up: Wins for Germany, Portugal and Romania

Goals from Marco Reus and Thomas Muller gave Germany victory over Georgia while Portugal beat Serbia to go top of Group I.

Luis Suarez rules out joining any English club but Liverpool

Luis Suarez refused to rule out a return to Liverpool and insists he will never play for another Premier League club.

Scotland 6-1 Gibraltar: Steven Fletcher scores hat-trick in European Qualifier

Gibraltar scored their first competitive goal, but Steven Fletcher's hat-trick helped Scotland win 6-1 at Hampden Park.

Mail Box

FA Refusing To Learn From Germany

We have a postcard from Germany in the Mailbox highlighting how Greg Dyke's quick-fix approach is all wrong. Also, the clamour for Kane, and size matters, apparently...

Where's The Love For Walcott?

Theo Walcott is wanted by neither Arsenal or Liverpool fans in the afternoon Mailbox. Also, some good points on the FA skewed priorities, and glorious geekery...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company