Preview: Braga vs. Backa Topola

Preview: Braga vs. Backa Topola

The third qualifying round in the UEFA Champions League will see Braga play host to Backa Topola, with the first-leg encounter taking place on Tuesday evening.

Braga ended last season in third place in the Primeira Liga table, while Backa Topola came second in the Serbian Super Liga, and both sides will be making their first appearance at these qualifiers in this round.

The hosts will be returning to the UEFA Champions League qualifiers this year after finishing the previous two seasons in fourth place in their domestic league and will be hoping they can make it to the group stage for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

Artur Jorge’s men managed 78 points in their 34 league matches last term, which was their highest tally since the league was expanded to 18 teams back in 2014-15 and saw them finish just six points behind Porto in second place and nine behind Benfica at the top.

Braga were involved in the UEFA Europa League last season, and despite managing 10 points in their six group-stage matches, they finished third in their group and were a tad unfortunate as they were the side with the highest points tally not to qualify for the knockout stages.

Os Arcebispos recorded two wins and two losses in European matches at home last season, which included a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Fiorentina in their Conference League encounter after their exit from the Europa League.

However, following their European competition disappointments, Braga had a very good second half of the season, which included a run of 10 wins in their final 11 home matches, along with a solitary draw against Porto back in March.

Meanwhile, Backa Topola’s remarkable rise over the last few years continued last season as they managed to finish the season in second place for the first time in their history, beaten only by runaway leaders Red Star Belgrade.

While challenging for the league title was too much to ask of Zarko Lazetic’s side, they found themselves in a titanic battle for the runners-up spot with Cukaricki that came down to the last day to decide, with TSC eventually securing it on goal difference.

The visitors have got this season off to a promising start as well, drawing 3-3 to Partizan in their opening match of the season and then managing a solid 3-0 win over Radnicki last weekend, leaving them in third place and one of only six sides that are still unbeaten in the Serbian Super Liga.

While their confidence will be at an all-time high, as a 15/1 outsider, it will be interesting to see how they handle themselves against a European competition regular, and they will do well to keep their emotions in check and try to give themselves something to play for in the return leg.

Braga Champions League form:

Braga form (all competitions):

Backa Topola Champions League form:

Backa Topola form (all competitions):

We say: Braga 3-1 Backa Topola
The hosts come into the match as huge favourites and have arguably got the best draw of the round against the tournament debutants. We fancy Braga to secure a commanding lead in this first-leg encounter, though we also expect the visitors to get on the scoresheet.

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