Braga will be looking to keep their hopes of Champions League football alive when they travel to Rio Ave in the Primeira Liga on Saturday at 8:30pm (UK time).
Carlos Carvalhal’s side are three points behind third-placed Benfica with eight games left to play, while Rio Ave will be wary of the relegation battle.
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Scoreline prediction: Rio Ave 0-1 Braga
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Rio Ave vs Braga build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Rio Ave may look comfortable in 11th, but the closeness of things at the bottom of the Primeira Liga means they are far from safe. The hosts are just four points clear of the relegation play-off spot with just under a quarter of the season left to go. Miguel Cardoso’s side have won just six times in the league all season and are without victory in their past four matches, drawing three including against 15th-placed Boavista last time out. This weekend’s game against Braga kicks off a run of tough fixtures for Rio Ave to end the season, which seems they also face Sporting CP and Porto.
Braga also go into this game in a disappointing run of form, winning just one of their past four games. Two draws and a defeat, the latter coming against Benfica, has seen Braga drop from second down to fourth and losing control of the fight for Champions League football. As things stand Braga will have to make do with the Europa League group stage, a spot handed to fourth due to Benfica’s presence in the Portuguese Cup final (against Braga). The Champions League isn’t out of reach for Braga, but Carvalhal needs a good result against the team he left last summer to keep the dream alive.
- Rio Ave (vs Boavista): Kieszek; Pinto, Santos, Nelson Monte, Pedro Amaral; Guga, Pele*, Tarantini; Mane, Gelson Dala, Chico Geraldes.
- Braga (vs Belenenses): Matheus; Esgaio*, Vitor Tormena, Raul Silva, Sequeira; Gaitan, Al Musrati, Fransergio, Galeno; Horta, Sporar.
Leo Vieira and Pele are suspended for Rio Ave, joining manager Miguel Cardoso in having to watch from afar. Junio, Andre Pereira and Nikola Jambor are also absent for Rio Ave through injury.
Braga are missing Ricardo Esgaio through suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards, with Iuri Medeiros, David Carmo and Francisco Moura all injured.
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Player to watch: Ricardo Horta (Braga)
Braga’s main man this season has been Ricardo Horta, and the Portuguese forward will once again be key as Carvalhal’s side look to stay in the Champions League fight.
Horta in Braga’s top scorer in the league this season, finding the net eight times so far, including one in the reverse fixture — a 3-0 victory just before Christmas. The 26-year-old, who captained Braga last time out, also has three league assists to his name with only Lucas Piazon (four) having more among those still at the club.
But it has been a quiet period for Horta, who has failed to score or assist in his past three matches, his joint-worst run of form this season — yet to go four without a direct goal involvement in the league. Can he end the streak at three once again?
Primeira Liga 2020/21 recent form:
- Rio Ave: DLDDW
- Braga: DWLDW
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