Braga vs Napoli is next up in Champions League action as the two sides meet at Estadio Municipal de Braga on Wednesday night in Group C. It should be an interesting group since Real Madrid and Union Berlin round it off.
The hosts had to get past the likes of TSC and Panathinaikos in the qualifying rounds to reach the group stage for the first time in 11 years. As for Napoli, they are looking to reach the Champions League knockouts for the second straight season after making the quarter-finals last term.
The two sides have had mixed starts to their domestic campaigns and have underwhelmed thus far. The Portuguese outfit managed to finish in third last season but Artur Jorge’s men have already dropped points in three out of their five league matches. The Partenopei have failed to win either of their last two outings and do not look the same team as last season that won the Scudetto. Pressure is already starting to mount on new head coach Rudi Garcia.
It has been a busy summer for Braga who have had to play in two Champions League qualifiers before reaching the group stage. They eased past Serbian side TSC after winning 7-1 on aggregate. Things were a little tougher in the play-off round but they still managed to get past Greek outfit Panathinaikos with a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
In terms of their domestic campaign, it has been a slow start. The Archbishops suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Famalicao on the opening day but did manage to respond in the match after with a 4-2 win away to Chaves. A 1-1 draw at home to Sporting would follow before defeating Moreirense 3-2 on their travels. However, Braga lost 3-1 away to Farense last time out so need to respond here.
Head coach Jorge has admitted himself that Napoli are the favorites for this one but is backing his side to respond after their disappointing defeat last time out. The 51-year-old has cited his fast forward line to create problems for the Napoli defense. The likes of Bruma, Simon Banza, Alvaro Djalo could create issues.
One To Watch: Ricardo Horta
The Portugal international is the primary creator for Braga and already has three goal contributions in four league appearances this term. The 29-year-old has tallied five assists in four Champions League matches so far too and will look to play intricate through balls for the aforementioned forward line.
Back-to-back victories for Napoli to start the season looked as though they were picking up where they left off last term. However, they have failed to win either of their two games since and there have already been calls for owner and president Aurelio De Laurentiis to sack Garcia.
The Partenopei recorded a 3-1 win away to newly-promoted Frosinone on the opening day before defeating Sassuolo 2-0 at the Diego Maradona Stadium. Nevertheless, they suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to a struggling Lazio on Matchday 3 before dropping points in a 2-2 draw away to Serie A new boys Genoa last time out.
However, credit does have to be given to Napoli for fighting back in Liguria since they went 2-0 down before goals from Giacomo Raspadori and Matteo Politano rescued a point. Nevertheless, the next couple of games will be huge for Garcia who is already under pressure to perform. If Napoli fail to beat Braga and Bologna in their next two games, the Spaniard’s time in Naples may be over in a flash.
One To Watch: Victor Osimhen
The Nigerian forward was the talisman for Napoli last term and managed 26 league goals and five in the Champions League. He has made a solid start this season too and has three goals after four Serie A appearances.
Napoli and Braga are yet to meet in competitive action. Their only clash was in a friendly back in 2012 as Napoli ran out 3-1 winners.
Braga vs Napoli Potential Lineups & Team News
Braga (4-2-3-1): Matheus Magalhaes; Victor Gomez, Jose Fonte, Paulo Oliveira, Cristian Borja; Al Musrati, Vitor Carvalho; Alvaro Djalo, Ricardo Horta, Bruma; Simon Banza
Sikou Niakate has missed the last two games for Braga due to injury and is a loss at the back. Paulo Oliveira is expected to keep his spot next to veteran Jose Fonte in defense as a result. However, Braga are not expected to be dealing with any other injury issues.
Napoli (4-3-3): Alex Meret; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Juan Jesus, Mathias Olivera; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski; Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Kvicha Kvaratskhelia
Pierluigi Gollini is the only absentee for the visitors here due to injury. Amir Rrahmani could come back into the side after being left on the bench against Genoa, whilst Mathias Olivera could be reinstalled into the starting eleven as well. Summer signing Natan may be given a start in this one. A front three of Politano, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia looks the most likely but Raspadori is also pushing for a start.
Braga vs Napoli Prediction
Neither Braga nor Napoli are in the best of form and so Jorge and Garcia are both desperate for three points here. It should be a close game with neither side really being able to gain the edge so a draw is the most likely result.
Braga 2-2 Napoli