Roma travel to Portugal for the first leg of the round of 32 of the Europa League on Thursday evening where they will take on Sporting Braga and hoping to take an advantage back to Rome.
Roma will play at the iconic Estadio Municipal De Braga stadium which was opened in 2003 and staged 2 Euro 2004 games, you have a quarry on opposite goals of the ground and two huge side stands. The Stadium was designed by Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura and is one of the most picturesque stadiums in Portugal and the whole of Europe.
Roma goes into the Europa League tie with a convincing home win over Udinese behind them. It was crucial to go into this game with confidence and they got it with the 3-0 home win on Sunday lunchtime. The game was wrapped up before halftime thanks to a double from Jordan Veretout, one from the penalty spot. Henrik Mkhitaryan did have a goal ruled out via var, rightly so for a foul in the build-up play. It was a shame, as it was an excellent team goal, where Roma passed through Udinese comfortably and played between the lines.
Pedro added a goal at the end of the game to add gloss to the scoreline. The game was professionally managed in the end by Roma, did have one scary moment where Bryan Cristante delayed playing the ball out from the back and was pick-pocketed by Gerard Deulofeu, but goalkeeper Pau Lopez stood strong and clawed the ball away as the Spanish forward tried to round him.
ROMA | PREDICTED XI | (3-4-2-1)
Mirante, Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez, Bruno Peres, Diawara, Pellegrini, Spinazzola, Mkhitaryan, Pedro, Dzeko.
Sporting Braga sit third in the Liga Nos standings after 19 games picking up 40 points. Braga are one point behind FC Porto who are in second place and a whopping 11 points behind runaway leaders Sporting CP. Sporting Braga finished 2nd in group G on goal difference behind Leicester City, both teams finished on 13 points from 6 games, but Brendon Rodgers side went through the top of the group by a goal difference of plus 9. The 7 goals conceded in both games against Leicester City were the factor in finishing second in the group comfortably ahead of Zorya Luhansk and AEK Athens.
Sporting Braga have been good form and are unbeaten in their last 7 games in all competitions. The last defeat for Sporting Braga was against leaders of Liga NOS Sporting CP in the Allianz Cup final, Pedro Porro with the only goal in that game. 4 wins in a row followed in various competitions in Portugal. Gil Vicente, Moreirense, Portimonense and on Valentine’s day Santa Clara were all defeated in Liga NOS. Santa Clara were defeated 2-1 in the Taca de Portugal Quarter Final where Braga drew with FC Porto in the first leg of the semi-final. Sporting Braga also drew with FC Porto 2-2 in the league. Nico Gaitan was the hero for Sporting Braga, as he equalized for the home side in the 94th minute, Lucas Piazon in that game picked up two assists.
Ex Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City manager Carlos Carvalhal is the Sporting Braga coach, he was appointed as coach in the summer of 2020 and has not looked back. In the 33 games in charge in all competitions for Sporting Braga this season he has the record of 23 wins, 3 draws, and 7 defeats.
Carvalhal has been very adaptive in his tactics for Sporting Braga this season and is not afraid to switch. In recent weeks, he has been playing a 3-4-2-1 which has switched to a 3-4-3 and even morphed into a hybrid of a 3-4-1-2. Carvalhal has also switched to a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, and even a 4-3-3 this season. He will have a game plan for the up-and-coming two games against AS Roma.
The key players to watch out for in Sporting Braga side, Ricardo Horta the Portuguese winger has been in fine form this season. Been involved in 8 goals in 17 appearances in Liga Nos this season with 6 goals and 2 assists. The last of his 6 goals came in the 2-1 home win over Portimonense on the 2nd of February. Horta was involved in 4 goals in 5 Europa League games which included 3 goals and an assist.
Horta can play anywhere in the forward line and will cause the Roma defense a lot of problems. The second and final player to keep an eye out for is striker Paulinho. Paulinho in all competitions this season for Sporting Braga has seen 10 goals and 4 assists in 27 games. His Europa League form is better than his league form, in the Liga Nos. Paulinho has scored 3 and claimed 3 assists in 15 games. In the Europa League, it’s 3 goals and 1 assist in 6 games.
SPORTING BRAGA | PREDICTED XI | (3-4-2-1)
Matheus, Tormena, Viana, Sequeira, Esgaio, Al Mustati, Novais, Galeno, Piazon, Horta, Paulinho.
This should be an interesting game to watch on Thursday evening, both teams like to play expansive expressive football and it will be thrilling to watch. It will be the return of Paulo Fonseca to Braga, who he coached in the 2015-16 season before moving to Ukraine and coaching Shakhtar Donetsk.