25/07/2024

Preview: Braga vs. Qarabag - prediction, team news, lineups

Hace 5 meses

Preview: Braga vs. Qarabag - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Braga and Qarabag FK, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Braga and Qarabag FK, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Braga will welcome Qarabag FK to Portugal on Thursday for the first leg of their Europa League knockout playoff tie.

The visitors kept their qualification hopes alive with a second-placed finish in the group stage, while the hosts dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group.


Match preview

Braga coach Artur Jorge reacts on January 14, 2024© Reuters

Braga return to continental action on Thursday aiming to salvage a place in the Europa League round of 16 after bowing out of the Champions League in the group stage before the turn of the year.

Following a third-placed Primeira Liga finish last term and a triumphant playoff tie, Os Arcebispos advanced into Europe's premier competition, and they faced a tough group alongside Real Madrid, Napoli and Union Berlin, eventually failing to seal a top-two spot having managed four points across their six outings.

Those points came from an away win and a home draw against Union Berlin, being enough to pip the German outfit to the Europa League playoff spot, and they now head into their first Europa League games of the term having secured the first piece of possible silverware domestically this term, beating Estoril Praia in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw to lift the Taca da Liga trophy at the end of January.

Since that triumph, Artur Jorge's side have hit a slightly tougher run in the Primeira Liga, firstly settling for a 1-1 draw against Chaves and scraping past Moreirense in a 1-0 win on home turf, before most recently travelling to title-chasing Sporting Lisbon on Sunday and suffering a 5-0 thrashing as Francisco Trincao, Eduardo Quaresma, Viktor Gyokeres, Daniel Braganca and Nuno Santos helped themselves to goals for the hosts.

With that heavy loss seeing them remain five points outside the top three in Portugal's top flight, Braga will now turn their focus back to the continental campaign and bid to make home advantage count and gain a lead in their two-legged playoff tie on Thursday.

Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov on October 26, 2023© Reuters

They meet a Qarabag side who kept their Europa League campaign alive with a second-placed group-stage finish in 2023, after triumphing in the Azerbaijani top flight last season and advancing past HJK Helsinki and Olimpija Ljubljana in qualifying.

Gurban Gurbanov's side enjoyed a dream start to the group stage, staking their claim to advance with 1-0 victories over Molde and Hacken, but after a pair of defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and a draw in the reverse fixture with Molde, their second-place hopes hung in the balance heading into the final round of games.

Sitting level on points with Molde, the Horsemen hosted Hacken in December and completed a double over the Swedish side to remain second and book a playoff place, picking up a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Leandro Andrade and Yassine Benzia.

The Horsemen followed up that triumph in style, adding seven more victories on the bounce to make it 10 straight wins in all competitions, including a 7-1 thrashing of Sabah in the first leg of an Azerbaijani Cup quarter-final tie, before that run was eventually ended by a somewhat inconsequential 4-3 home defeat in the second leg last Thursday.

Now on the back of a 3-3 draw with the same opposition at the weekend to remain 16 points clear at the summit of the domestic top flight after 22 games, Qarabag will turn their focus back to their continental pursuits and bid to pull off an upset in Portugal before welcoming Braga for the second leg in their bid to continue in this year's Europa League.

Braga form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L


Qarabag FK Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • W


Qarabag form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D



Team News

Braga's Abel Ruiz celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on January 23, 2024© Reuters

Braga will remain without winger Bruma through injury on Thursday, and Artur Jorge may opt to make several changes to their starting XI from the thrashing at the hands of Sporting Lisbon last time out.

Simon Banza should return to lead the line from the outset after serving for DR Congo at the Africa Cup of Nations, having notched up 14 goals in 15 Primeira Liga appearances so far this term, while Pizzi will hope to displace Rodrigo Zalazar and join Ricardo Horta and Alvaro Djalo in support of the lone striker.

Vitor Carvalho will hope to again join veteran Joao Moutinho in the engine room, while Sikou Niakate may take Jose Fonte's place alongside Paulo Oliveira in the middle of a back four.

Qarabag will be unable to call on defender Marko Vesovic on Thursday, as he will serve a suspension for a red card shown in their final group Europa League group-stage match against Hacken.

In his absence, Matheus Silva is bound to again line up on the right-hand side of a back four, while Bahlul Mustafazada and Badavi Guseynov will continue in the middle of the defence.

In a 4-2-3-1 shape, their line will again be led by Juninho, who has already notched up 19 goals across all competitions so far this season, while Leandro Andrade, Yassine Benzia and Abdellah Zoubir are all danger men in a supporting trio.


Braga possible starting lineup:
Matheus; Gomez, Niakate, Oliveira, Borja; Carvalho, Moutinho; Djalo, Pizzi, Horta; Banza

Qarabag FK possible starting lineup:
Lunyov; Silva, Mustafazada, Guseynov, Cafarguliyev; Romao, Jankovic; Andrade, Benzia, Zoubir; Juninho


SM words green background

We say: Braga 3-0 Qarabag FK

With more quality throughout their squad and home advantage on their side, we back Braga to gain the advantage in Portugal on Thursday before travelling to Baku for the second leg.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


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