MX23RW : Sunday, August 1 17:14:11| >> :600:245942:245942:
Feb 18, 2021 at 5.55pm UK at Estadio Municipal

Esgaio (32'), Oliveira (79'), Silva (89')
Esgaio (54')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Dzeko (5'), Mayoral (87')
Mancini (90+6')

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

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

Meeting for the first time in European competition, Braga take on a Roma side led by their former coach at Estadio Municipal de Braga on Thursday.

Both clubs impressed in progressing through the Europa League group stage, with Carlos Carvalhal's men finishing runners-up to Leicester City and his old friend Paulo Fonseca's team topping Group A.

Match preview

Roma manager Paulo Fonseca pictured on January 15, 2021© Reuters

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca is set for a warm welcome upon his return to the Iberian peninsula this week, having led Braga during the 2015-16 campaign and lifted the Taca de Portugal in his brief time with the club. During Fonseca's only season in charge, Braga also made the Europa League quarter-finals - exiting to the club he joined next, Shakhtar Donetsk.

In the build-up to Thursday's game the former Pacos Ferreira boss has praised Braga's group stage performances and offered kind words for both their young side and his latest successor, Carlos Carvalhal. However, the pressure is always intense in the Eternal City, and after crashing out of the Coppa Italia to humble Spezia, Fonseca is now expected to steer his team on towards the final in Gdansk by brushing past his former colleagues.

Sitting third in the Serie A standings after a 3-0 victory against Udinese at the weekend, the Giallorossi continue to dominate more modest opposition but have tended to crumble when facing their main top-four rivals, such as Juventus, Atalanta and city rivals Lazio - each of whom they have lost to in the past few weeks.

A potent attack, which averages in excess of two goals per league game, has also been a feature of a continental campaign in which their coach has fielded a much-changed XI. Talented youngsters such as Gonzalo Villar, Carles Perez and Riccardo Calafiori have featured throughout the autumn and could continue to make an impression in the competition's latter stages.

Defeated 2-0 by eventual winners Sevilla in last season's final 16, which remains the furthest the club has gone in the Europa League (though they were UEFA Cup runners-up in 1991), the Giallorossi have now made it four qualifications from as many group stages at this level. They secured knockout football this term with two group games to spare, doing the double over both Young Boys and CFR Cluj, but curiously dropping points in both games against a weak CSKA Sofia side.

Roma are without an away win in post-Christmas European football, however, since a 4-0 victory at Villarreal four years ago – a run of six matches, in which they have lost five times. That record must change in the coming days if they are to overcome an enterprising opponent this time around.

Braga's Paulinho celebrates scoring against Leicester City in the Europa League on November 26, 2020© Reuters

Braga come into this glamour tie in excellent shape, as evidenced by a seven-game unbeaten run since their Taca da Liga final defeat to Primeira Liga leaders Sporting last month. In two recent meetings with reigning champions Porto, they dominated possession by two-thirds to one and came away with a draw on each occasion.

Third in the table with a healthy tally of 40 points, Carlos Carvalhal's men currently split the established giants of the Portuguese game - sitting just one point behind Porto and two above Benfica.

Their Europa League journey so far has seen the 2011 runners-up record four wins, a draw and only a solitary defeat, to Premier League high-flyers Leicester City. Serene progress through Group G never saw them in difficulty, as the Minhotos racked up 14 goals in all - though they did also leak 10 themselves, including four at the King Power Stadium against Brendan Rodgers's team.

Certainly, the star of their campaign has been forward Ricardo Horta, who has scored six league goals and three in the Europa League. The diminutive ex-Malaga man was in the lineup as Braga prepared for their return to continental competition with a 1-0 win over Santa Clara on Sunday, as a first-half goal from Colombian left-back Cristian Borja ensured another victory for Carvalhal's side.

As Braga have lost only two of their previous 16 European fixtures at Estadio Municipal, winning 10, the stadium uniquely carved into a quarry has been something of a fortress for the long-time overachievers. They will need all those fond memories on Thursday, as they face a potentially rampant Roma side.

Braga Europa League form: WWLDWW
Braga form (all competitions): WWWDDW

Roma Europa League form: WDWWWL
Roma form (all competitions): LLWWLW

Team News

Carlos Carvalhal, now in charge of Sporting Braga, pictured in June 2020© Reuters

Carlos Carvalhal will be without Braga's defensive mainstay David Carmo - injured against Porto recently - as he joins Rui Fonte, Francisco Moura and Iuri Medeiros on the treatment table, with the latter trio all suffering with knee injuries.

Negotiating a period of five games in 15 days, Carvalhal will most likely shuffle his pack again, which could see Andre Horta and former Atletico Madrid man Nicolas Gaitan potentially involved in his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation.

As is generally the case, Roma's Paulo Fonseca will adopt a similar shape to his successor in the Braga dugout, with much rotation of playing resources anticipated. Chris Smalling and long-term injury absentee Nicolo Zaniolo are unavailable through injury, but the Italian side have few other concerns.

Marash Kumbulla will vie with Roger Ibanez for a place in defence alongside Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante, while Bruno Peres could be introduced at wing-back to offer a rare rest to Rick Karsdorp.

Now available again after injury and an off-field squabble respectively, experienced campaigners Pedro and Edin Dzeko may be brought in to replace Lorenzo Pellegrini and Europa League regular Borja Mayoral in the Giallorossi attack.

Braga possible starting lineup:
Matheus; Tormena, Silva, Borja; Esgaio, Elmusrati, A. Horta, Galeno; R. Horta, Gaitan; Ruiz

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez; Peres, Villar, Veretout, Spinazzola; Pedro, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko

SM words green background

We say: Braga 2-2 Roma

An immediately attractive match-up on paper, this clash of two like-minded coaches - albeit in charge of clubs at different ends of the European food chain - should not fail to deliver.

Roma's depth of attacking talent, allied to the hosts' home record - as strong as the granite into which their ground is carved - means that goals are near-guaranteed, with the promise of a second helping next week at the Olimpico.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo pictured in November 2019
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Monday's key events

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