Braga will host minnows Backa Topola in their third round of UEFA Champions League qualifying. Both teams will be participating in these qualifiers for the first time in this round. Backa Topola finished second in the Serbian Super Liga. Braga finished third in the Primeira Liga standings at the end of the previous campaign.
Preview (Braga vs Backa Topola)
The hosts, who finished fourth in their domestic league the previous two seasons, will compete in the UEFA Champions League qualifications this year and will be looking to advance to the group stage for the first time since the 2012–13 campaign. The 78 points Artur Jorge’s club managed in their 34 league games last season. It was their greatest total since the league’s expansion to 18 teams back in 2014–15. It helped them finish second in the standings, nine points behind Benfica, and just six points behind Porto. Last season, Braga competed in the UEFA Europa League. Despite earning 10 points from their six group-stage games, they came in third place.
Last season, Os Arcebispos had a record of two victories and two defeats in home European games. Braga, however, enjoyed a very excellent second half of the season after their losses in the European tournament. It included a run of 10 wins in their final 11 home games and a lone tie against Porto back in March. Backa Topola continued their spectacular progress over the previous several seasons last year. They managed to complete the campaign in second place for the first time in their history. Topola only trailed Red Star Belgrade in the standings.
Zarko Lazetic’s team was unable to contend for the league title, but they did engage in a fierce contest with Cukaricki for second place that was decided on the final day, with TSC ultimately winning on goal differential.The guests have also had a strong start to the season, drew 3-3 with Partizan in their season opener before defeating Radnicki 3-0 last weekend to move into third place and remain one of just six teams in the Serbian Super Liga without a loss.
Andre Castro will seek to partner Abel Ruiz at the top of the pitch after a strong preseason that included a goal against Nice in their last friendly game. Ricardo Horta was crucial for Braga last season and scored one of the goals in preseason as well. Bruma’s return from loan, who also scored a few goals in pre-season, may also play a significant role.
Lazetic will need to make sure his team keeps its composure because they will likely spend a large portion of the game on the defensive. In their first two games of the season, they have already had up to seven players cautioned, including Milos Cvetkovic twice in two games. Cvetkovic, who scored in the most recent game, will probably keep his spot in midfield, while Nikola Kuveljic will be hoping that his goal from the bench in that game would be enough to get him a starting position.
The hosts enter the game as overwhelming favorites and may have drawn the best opponent of the round in the tournament newcomers. We predict Braga to take a dominating lead in this first-leg match, but we also anticipate goals from the visitors.
Braga 3 – 1 Backa Topola
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