Unlike in the UEFA Champions League, where the round of 16 first leg matches were or are on the agenda this week and next, the round of 16 in the Europa League is preceded by the sixteenth final. The field of participants is halved from 32 to 16 teams, thus separating the proverbial chaff from the wheat.
In the encounter between the Glasgow Rangers and Braga, the odds before the first leg tend to suggest that the Portuguese will prevail in the final accounts, which is probably due to the fact that the Scots only recorded two wins in the preliminary round and just as second made the jump to the knockout phase.
Sporting Braga, on the other hand, presented themselves clearly more confidently, who remained unbeaten in six matches in one of the supposedly strongest groups with Wolverhampton or Besiktas and scored an impressive 14 out of a possible 18 points. The team of coach Rúben Amorim is also in top shape and has not lost in calendar year 2020.
Against this background, we assume that despite the home advantage at Ibrox Stadium, the home side will find it extremely difficult to beat the confident Portuguese. We therefore do not dare to predict the outcome of the game before the Glasgow Rangers vs Braga game, but focus on the goal market. According to the latest impressions, no more than two hits are expected.
Overall, the UEFA Europa League is still new territory for the Glasgow Rangers. Due to the forced descent in 2012, the “Gers” took part in the second most important European club competition for the first time last season. 2018/2019 was the final stop after only six points in six games but already after the group phase.
In the current season, Steven Gerrard’s team had finally set the goal of taking the next step and reaching the knockout phase in the European Cup for the first time in nine years. This goal was successfully ticked off in December 2019.
Thanks to a 1-1 draw against Swiss champions Young Boys at home, the Scots defended second place in the group behind FC Porto and thus qualified for the intermediate round, in which the Glasgow Rangers now face Braga. A tip on the home team in the first leg on Thursday could be justified with the home strength.
The current runner-up of the Scottish Premiership has been unbeaten for 16 European home games. In the current season alone, the blue-white-red (including the qualification) celebrated six wins in seven encounters in front of their own fans.
Also noteworthy is the fact that in the past 22 European Cup matches at Ibrox Stadium, no guest has been able to score more than one away goal. VfB Stuttgart achieved this for the last time in the Champions League group phase 2009/2010 (0: 2).
Among other things, this is one of the starting points that lead us to allude to the odds of a maximum of two goals in the course of the game on Thursday in the round of 16 first leg between the Glasgow Rangers and Braga. Furthermore, five of the recent six home games in the Scottish league ended with fewer than three goals. Since the Europa League is now even more at stake and the Gerrard team will certainly not take too much risk, we do not expect a spectacle again.
In terms of personnel, the Liverpool legend can draw almost from the full. With the exception of the experienced English striker Jermaine Defoe, Filip Helander and Glenn Middleton, all players should be available. Only the bad grass in the Ibrox Stadium due to the weather conditions is currently causing problems for the hosts. Again, this speaks for few football highlights, but for a typical fight on the island.
The Sporting Clube de Braga is currently probably the hottest team in Portugal. Although the Red-Whites fired Ricardo Sa Pinto the day before Christmas and hired an inexperienced young coach with a professional past in Rúben Amorim, the results of last year’s fourth in the Primeira Liga read absolutely fantastic.
The kickers from the north of the country celebrated eight victories in nine competitive games led by the 35-year-old. Only at home against Gil Vicente Braga had to be satisfied with a 2: 2. A particular highlight in the still young term of Rúben Amorim was certainly the triumph in the league cup when FC Porto were beaten 1-0 at the end of January.
Last weekend, the red-whites also underlined their outstanding form with a narrow 1-0 away win at Benfica Lisbon. At the beginning of February, Sporting was also brought down to their knees 1-0. In general, the current third in the Primeira Liga does not necessarily stand for large offensive fireworks. In 21 league games, the Sporting Clube only scored more than two goals in two cases.
Things went much better in the UEFA Europa League group stage. In the very difficult group with the Wolverhampton Wanderers, Besiktas and outsiders Slovan Bratislava, the Portuguese left no doubt as to their progress from the start. In the final accounts, the former finalist had 14 points (four wins, two draws) and a whopping 15 goals.
Although a total of 24 goals were scored in the six group games with SCB participation (four on average), two factors on Thursday still speak in favor of a game with few goals. On the one hand, the starting position in a knockout game that takes place away from home cannot be compared to the preliminary round. On the other hand, the red and whites under Coach Amorim defensively put at least one shovel on it.
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that Sporting Braga have been unbeaten in 13 European Cup matches. During this period there were nine wins and four draws. This season, the balance including qualification is even eight successes in ten matches. All five away games were victorious!
Coach Amorim also has little to worry about when it comes to injuries. Only central defenders Vitor Tormena and Eduardo will not be available due to muscular complaints. The offensive hopes rest on the 20-year-old youngster Trincao, whose move to FC Barcelona in July for 31 million euros has already been decided.