Roma react to Braga draw for Europa League Round of 32

Roma have been drawn against Portuguese side Braga for the Europa League Round of 32.

The draw was conducted at UEFA headquarters on Monday. As group winners, Roma were one of the seeded teams.

In theory, that should have given them an easier draw. The game against Braga will still be a challenge, though.

It will mark a return to familiar territory for Roma’s head coach Paulo Fonseca. The Portuguese tactician not only returns to his home country, but to one of the clubs he used to manage.

It was at Braga where Fonseca won his first knockout tournament. He only spent a season there, but lifted the 2015-16 Portuguese Cup at the end of it.

After that, he moved to Shakhtar Donetsk, where he embarked on a successful spell that led to him getting the Roma job in 2019.

A couple of players remain from the Braga squad that Fonseca coached. Goalkeeper Matheus and forward Rui Fonte were both part of his cup-winning squad.

Other players to watch out for in the Braga setup will be former Atletico Madrid attacking midfielder Nico Gaitan and young defender David Carmo, who has been linked with a few big clubs recently – including Roma.

Braga ran a Leicester City squad featuring Roma loanee Cengiz Under close in their group, finishing level on points but in second place.

Roma have only ever been knocked out at the Round of 32 stage in the Europa League era once, but Fonseca knows the size of the challenge that awaits his team in 2021.

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“Braga are a good side who did really well during the group stage,” Fonseca said.

“They are a side I know well, just as I know the coach there well too, so you can trust me when I say it will be a tough tie – because I know what I’m talking about.

“They are a young side but they play good football. Braga are an ambitious club making good progress and we cannot make the mistake of thinking that qualifying for the next round will be straightforward.

“I’m not hiding the fact that it will be a special game for me personally, considering I coached there and I have a lot of friends at the club too.”

Defender Federico Fazio also gave his reaction to the draw.

“We could have had an easier draw,” he admitted. “Braga play very well, I have seen them play.

“Even though there a few months yet, it will not be easy to pass the round.”

The first leg will be away at Braga on February 18th. One week later, the sides will meet again at Stadio Olimpico.

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