Preview: Real Madrid vs. Braga 

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Braga 

A point is all that is required for Real Madrid to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League when Braga pay a visit to the Bernabeu on Wednesday in Group C.

Los Blancos boast a perfect record of three wins from three in continental action so far, seeing them sit two places and six points better off than their Iberian visitors.

Gunning for European Cup number 15 in 2023-24, Real Madrid have gone about their business with professionalism in the group stage so far, putting Napoli and Union Berlin to the sword – albeit by just the one goal on each occasion – before a similar story unfolded on Braga’s turf.

Rodrygo’s near-post finish and the customary Jude Bellingham goal would propel Los Blancos into a two-goal advantage just after the hour mark, and while Alvaro Djalo beat Kepa Arrizabalaga at his near post just two minutes after Bellingham’s fine effort, Carlo Ancelotti’s men saw out the final half-hour to remain flawless in Group C.

With Union Berlin yet to pick up a single point in Group C so far, and owing to their superior head-to-head record versus Braga, Real Madrid need only avoid defeat on Wednesday to assure themselves of a top-two finish, while a win would take them to within a point of top spot if Napoli suffer a shock defeat to the German minnows.

However, Real went from the highs of a 2-1 El Clasico win over Barcelona to the lows of a frustrating goalless stalemate with Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, as Ancelotti’s side fired 22 shots and had 63% of the ball to no avail, but an eight-game unbeaten run is nothing to be scoffed at.

Los Blancos have also avoided defeat in each of their last eight Champions League home games – winning seven of them – and have not failed to score in a continental match at the Bernabeu since 2018, netting in 24 contests on the trot since a shock 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow.

Likewise, each of Braga’s three Champions League contests so far this season have also been settled by just the one goal, as Artur Jorge’s men began with a narrow 2-1 loss to Napoli before storming back from two goals down to sink Union Berlin in a five-goal extravaganza.

That enthralling 3-2 Berlin beating – which was sealed with an injury-time Andre Castro strike – has the third-placed visitors still very much in contention to upset the apple cart, although their opening loss to Napoli, who are three points better off, means that Braga cannot break into the top two even if they can defy the odds and down Real Madrid.

On Saturday, Jorge’s men enjoyed a near-perfect warm-up for their short sojourn to the Bernabeu, heading into the interval 1-0 down against Portimonense in the Primeira Liga but prevailing 6-1 thanks to a second-half flurry of goals, including a hat-trick for the red-hot Simon Banza inside the final 10 minutes.

The Archbishops have not drawn a blank in front of goal yet this season and have netted at least twice in each of their last four away matches – registering 12 in total – but defensive discipline does not come naturally to Braga, who have also shipped multiple goals in five of their last six road contests.

Nevertheless, the Portuguese powerhouses will experience a club first on Wednesday, as they prepare for an inaugural Champions League away game versus a Spanish side, but their compatriots have often fared poorly at the Bernabeu; Real Madrid are yet to a lose a European home game against a Primeira Liga outfit.

Real Madrid Champions League form:

Real Madrid form (all competitions):

Braga Champions League form:

Braga form (all competitions):

We say: Real Madrid 2-0 Braga
Navigating their way to victory without Bellingham is something that Real Madrid have only experienced once so far this season, but given Braga’s defensive woes on the road, the Englishman’s possible absence should not have a major impact on Wednesday’s outcome.

Braga ought to play with the shackles off as they attempt to keep their own top-two hopes alive, but gaps will inevitably open up for the hosts to exploit, and we have faith in Ancelotti’s defence to keep the rear door bolted shut and play their part in sealing a top-two finish.

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