Braga and Rangers square off at Estadio Municipal de Braga on Thursday evening looking to take another step towards surprise success in the Europa League.
Both clubs have already upset the odds in this competition, Braga getting the better of Monaco over two legs in the last 16 and Rangers pulling off the shock of the competition by defeating Borussia Dortmund in the playoff round.
The priority for Rangers this season has been to retain the Scottish Premiership title and to build on their dominance over Celtic in the previous campaign.
However, as a result of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat in the Old Firm derby, Rangers now sit six points adrift of their fierce rivals, seemingly making it highly likely that they will give up the trophy that they won last year.
The two teams renew acquaintances in the Scottish Cup on Sunday, but boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be solely focused on progressing further in Europe given the effort that it has taken to reach this stage.
On the back of beating Dortmund in the first knockout round, Rangers were able to repel a second-leg bombardment from Red Star Belgrade to eventually prevail 4-2 on aggregate.
Nevertheless, defeat in Serbia means that Rangers have now lost two of their last three outings in all competitions, while just five victories have come from 10 fixtures.
Sitting 24 points adrift of leaders Porto, Braga have endured a disappointing year in Primeira Liga, Carlos Carvalhal aware that fourth position is the best that the club can realistically hope for come the end of the campaign.
However, Braga pulled off one of their best results of 2021-22 last time out, withstanding a second-half Benfica comeback to prevail by a 3-2 scoreline.
For a team that has been so inconsistent since last August, it was an eye-catching result, and one which will give Os Arcebispos every confidence that they can gain a first-leg advantage over their next opponents.
Braga’s best performances in this competition came against Monaco in the previous round, the Portuguese outfit backing up a 2-0 victory in the first leg with a 1-1 draw on away territory.
In their five home European fixtures this season, they have scored 12 goals, a statistic which will not go unnoticed by Rangers ahead of this game.
Braga Europa League form:
Braga form (all competitions):
Rangers Europa League form:
Rangers form (all competitions):
We say: Braga 1-1 Rangers
Both clubs will fancy their chances of further progression, something which should lead to a relatively open game in Portugal. Nevertheless, there may come a point in the contest where both clubs will settle for a draw ahead of the second leg, and a low-scoring share of the spoils could play out at Estadio Municipal de Braga.