Manchester United return to Champions League action this week, where they will host Portuguese side SC Braga in matchday 3 of Europe’s premier club competition.
With United currently top of Champions League Group H, the Red Devils will be keen to solidify their position having already won their previous two group games this season.
Braga, however, will certainly be no pushovers.
Though not necessarily as well known as some of their more illustrious domestic rivals, the club finished third in last season’s Primeira Liga, and in the last few years have established themselves as one of Portugal’s top sides.
This article offers a greater insight into Manchester United’s Champions League opponent, outlining what they can expect to see from Braga this Tuesday at Old Trafford.
Braga’s most recent domestic game came over two weeks ago, as they played out a thrilling 4-4 draw at home against lowly Olhanense on Oct. 7.
Having been 4-1 down after 55 minutes, Braga had to dig deep and scored three goals in the final 17 minutes, with Douglao’s equaliser arriving deep into stoppage time.
The result saw Braga remain in third place, though disappointingly they fell three points behind joint-leaders Porto and Benfica.
Prior to the 4-4 draw Braga had won three of their opening five league games, though the slip-up against third from the bottom Olhanense could be a serious knock to the players’ confidence.
Regarding European competition, Braga have endured another mixed bag of results.
Having defeated Udinese on penalties to advance from the qualification round, they kicked off Group H with a 2-0 loss defeat to Romanian side Cluj, before atoning for the defeat somewhat with a win over Galatasaray in Turkey by the same margin.
With their current form inconsistent to say the least, perhaps Braga’s collective spirit will be slightly diminished heading into their clash with United.
Players To Watch
With last season’s top scorer, Lima, moving to Benfica in the summer, Braga have found themselves searching for a new focal point to their attack.
So far this season, new signing Eder has been the man to fill that void, with four league goals in as many games since his summer arrival from Academica.
As well as Eder, captain Alan has taken on an added responsibility this season, and was amongst the goal scorers in the 2-0 win over Galatasaray at the start of the month. He also boasted the joint-most assists for his club last campaign, so expect the winger to be involved in much of Braga’s offensive play.
United may also be familiar with one of Braga’s central midfielders; Hugo Viana endured a fairly unsuccessful spell with Premier League rivals Newcastle United between 2002-05.
The 29 year old has since found his feet back in his homeland, with his passing and set-piece abilities making him a threatening presence in the Braga line up.
Record in England
The last time Braga played a Champions League game on English soil, they were dominated 6-0 by Arsenal in the 2010-11 group stages.
In total, they have made the trip to England for European competition on seven occasions, racking up one win, two draws and four defeats.
Furthermore, their sole victory came last season against lowly Championship side Birmingham City.
And as for the four defeats, Braga conceded a startling 16 goals during those games. The poor results included two separate 6-0 losses, with Tottenham running riot back in the 1984-85 season and of course Arsenal’s aforementioned success of two years ago.
Needless to say, improvements will need to be made if Braga hope to secure a positive result at Old Trafford.
Though last season’s win over Birmingham marked a slight upturn in fortunes, the gulf in class between a Championship team and Manchester United is considerable, so the Portuguese side will be able to take little heart from the result in that respect.
From a United point of view, the omens certainly look good. Stuttering domestic and continental form, as well as a poor historical record in this part of the world would suggest that Braga may well struggle against the might of Manchester United.
They could of course spring an upset, but if Sir Alex Ferguson’s men play to their best, it should be another three points in the bag for the Red Devils.