Can Benfica’s title challenge survive a huge test on Saturday night? The Portuguese champions head to a Braga side who are on the very edge of the title fight, with a close battle going on between the league’s Big Three. Porto, Sporting and Benfica have suffered just one league defeat between them this term, although that one defeat was dealt out to the champions. Lose again and they’re going to be cut adrift from the Champions League race, never mind the fight for the title.
The problem for Benfica is that they’re up against a Braga side who are really impressing. It almost feels like a shame that they got sorted out just in time to miss out on a potential Champions League place. This is the first season since Portugal’s number of spots in Europe’s top competition was reduced to two, meaning one of the traditional top sides will miss out. A strong run from Braga could throw a spanner in the works and cut out two of the Big Three.
The hosts lost their opening home match of the season, going down to Porto back in August. They also lost at Benfica as they started the season with three losses in four matches, but they’ve turned a corner since. Braga have won their last seven home games, while they’ve lost just one of their last 13 in the league. That’s largely down to their impressive scoring record, having averaged two goals per game. They’ve hit 2.65 per home outing, which is a threat to the champions.
Benfica come in to this one having seen both teams score in 67% of their away matches. They’ve found themselves vulnerable on the road this term, and that’s just against middling sides. When they go up against an in-form side with the second best home record in the division, Benfica should concede here. They do tend to just let one in per game when they do slip up at the back, but we’re still backing against a clean sheet for the champions.
The visitors do have a great scoring record away, hitting 1.89 goals per game on their travels. Benfica have the second highest goal tally in the league, so we’re backing both teams to score in this one. We’re also backing the league’s top scorer Jonas to find the net for the visitors. He’s hit 20 goals in 17 league starts, and scored seven times in his last six appearances. As a result, we’re backing him to score any time.
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