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

Free £50 bet

Daily Offers and Promotions, sign up for a free £50 matched bet

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

There are no fixtures at present.

Footer 365

Premier League: Brendan Rodgers insists Liverpool will move on without Luis Suarez

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists there is no bad blood between the club and the outgoing Luis Suarez.

Transfer news: Liverpool appear to be close to completing a deal for Loic Remy

Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Loic Remy with the French forward reportedly having his medical in Boston.

Manchester United still global giant and prepared to spend big insists Ed Woodward

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insists the club is still the biggest in the world.

Mail Box

Anyone But Rooney. Or Baines. Or Hart.

There isn't a great deal of excitement in the Mailbox regarding England's potential new captain, but we have good stuff on Gerrard's development and a one club man team...

Goodbye Patrice And Farewell Steven...

Man United fans say a fond farewell to Patrice Evra in the mailbox while there are also thoughts on Steven Gerrard's retirement from England duty. Plus, some rare cricket bantz...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property