Preview: Santa Clara vs. Braga
The Portuguese Primeira Liga gets underway in the new year when Santa Clara and Braga go head to head at the Estadio de Sao Miguel on Thursday.
Artur Jorge’s men secured an impressive victory over league leaders Benfica in their last outing of 2022 and will head into the midweek match looking to continue in the same vein.
Santa Clara were left empty handed for the third consecutive game as they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Gil Vicente when the sides squared off at the Estadio Cidade de Barcelos last Thursday.
In a heated bottom-of-the-table clash, former Mallorca striker Murilo Souza netted the only goal of the game in the 41st minute to hand the Gilistas just their third win of the season.
This followed a disappointing group-stage exit from the Taca da Liga, where Mario Silva’s side managed just one point from four matches to finish rock-bottom in Group G.
Santa Clara have now picked up three wins, four draws and lost seven of their 14 matches this season to collect 13 points and sit 15th in the Primeira Liga table, one point above the relegation playoff spot.
While Os Acoreanos will be looking to stop the rot and kick off the new year on a high, next up is the stern test of taking on a Braga side who are unbeaten in each of the last five meetings between the teams, claiming three wins and two draws since a 1-0 loss in September 2020.
Elsewhere, Thursday’s visitors dealt high-flying Benfica their first league defeat of the season as they secured a resounding 3-0 victory when the sides met at the Estadio Braga Municipal.
In their first league action since November’s break for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Abel Ruiz put the hosts on their way with a second-minute opener before Ricardo Horta grabbed a brace to see off the league leaders.
This result came barely two weeks after Jorge’s side suffered a quarter-final exit from the Taca da Liga courtesy of a 5-0 mauling against Sporting Lisbon at the Estadio Jose Alvalade on December 19.
Braga head into the new year on a run of six wins from their last seven matches across all competitions — scoring 13 goals and keeping four clean sheets — with the aforementioned League Cup defeat against Roger Schmidt’s side being the exception.
Off the back of a solid first half of the season, Os Arcebispos are currently third in the league standings after picking up 31 points from 14 matches, one point off second-placed Porto and six behind league leaders Benfica.
This has been owing to the impressive job done at the defensive end of the pitch and Braga’s superb form away from home, where they boast the league’s best record with 18 points from seven matches.
Santa Clara Primeira Liga form:
Santa Clara form (all competitions):
Braga Primeira Liga form:
Braga form (all competitions):
We say: Santa Clara 0-3 Braga
Having produced their best performance of the season to see off Benfica, we can only see one winner here. Although Santa Clara will back themselves to rise to the occasion on home territory, the visitors should have too much quality in the final third.