What: UEFA Champions League Playoff Round
Who: Sporting Braga vs Sevilla
When: Wednesday 18th August, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Estadio AXA, Braga, Portugal
Can Braga Buck the Trend?
Whenever Portuguese sides have met their Spanish neighbours recently things have not turned out well – for the Portuguese. Braga face a stern and stiff test in the shape of Sevilla and know that they will face a La Liga side already in form. Domingos Paciência’s team have already dispatched of Scottish giants Celtic in some style to reach this stage and, given the talent within their ranks, will feel a shock could be in the offing.
Braga performed superbly last season to take second spot in the Portuguese top flight, just failing to last the distance to claim the crown; that honour instead went to Benfica. The Minhotos could perhaps be one step ahead of Sevilla in terms of match sharpness. With one league game under their belt – a 3-1 win over Portimonense for which Paciencia showered the side with praise – and two highly charged 90 minutes against Celtic, Braga will be raring to go.
Building on the Beating of Barca
Sevilla got their new season off to the perfect start by triumphing over La Liga champions Barcelona 3-1 in the first leg of their Supercopa duel. With the debt fulled demise of Valencia, Sevilla can rightfully be considered Spain’s third club behind Barcelona and Real Madrid and, on their day, Antonio Alvarez’s side can beat anyone.
Up front is where Sevilla can be at their most lethal; an attacking group containing Luis Fabiano, Frederic Kanoute, Jesus Navas and Romaric presents some serious quality. Kanoute, who cannot stop finding the net in Spain’s top flight, struck again against Barcelona, scoring twice. Sevilla have their eyes on a third Champions League group stage appearance in three years; Braga by contrast had never played Champions League football before this season.
Braga 3-0 Sharjah FC (31/07; Friendly)
Celtic 2-1 Braga (04/08; Champions League)
Braga 3-1 Portimonense (13/08; Liga Sagres)
Sevilla 1-1 Espanyol (07/08; Friendly)
Cadiz 2-3 Sevilla (08/08; Friendly)
Sevilla 3-1 Barcelona (14/08; Supercopa)
Sevilla: Diego Perotti (doubt); Abdoulay Konko (doubt)
Players to watch
Braga – Paulo Cesar: 30-year-old Cesar should be one of Braga’s biggest attacking threats. The Brazilian striker played a big part in helping the Minhotos to runners-up spot in the league last season and has already found his scoring boots in the Champions League: Cesar scored the first goal in Braga’s 2-1 second leg defeat at Celtic.
Sevilla – Frederic Kanoute: The Mali international forward is in hot form even at this early stage in the season, raiding the Barcelona defence twice in the Supercopa win. Now 32 years old, Kanoute is just as important to the Sevilla frontline as ever and his finishing could go a long way towards putting Braga out and sending the Spaniards to the group stage.
With a packed stadium behind them Braga should avoid any embarrassment, but triumphing against Sevilla over two legs looks a tough ask. The Portuguese side should probably be able to score, however with the emphasis on them to go forward, Sevilla’s quick attacks should yield a goal or two. 2-1 to Sevilla looks about right.