Currently fourth in Portugal’s SuperLiga, Braga have taken the scalps of two of the country’s big three at home – Porto and Benfica (Ricardo actually scored for Benfica in that game, a 3-1 win for Braga) – in a record of eight wins, a draw and two defeats this term. They are on a run of four straight home wins domestically.
Ricardo will miss out – he’s ineligible after playing for Benfica in the Champions League, his former team now in the UEFA Cup – but who better to run the rule over our opponents?
“Last season they were very good but they always struggle against the best teams in Portugal,” reported Ricardo, who spent three seasons at Braga before moving to Benfica in 2002.
“It’s difficult to break into the top three in Portugal because they are the big teams – Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon.
“Last year, Braga struggled with those clubs but this season they have beaten both Sporting and Benfica at home. They are fourth and they are doing well.
“They have a good team, are enjoying good results in the league and have played well in the UEFA Cup. For many years, they haven’t been able to reach this stage.
“Joao Pinto is the player everyone knows. We have to look out for all players, not individuals, because they play as a team. We will have to be careful out there because they are strong at home but I’m sure we will have our chances.”
As for Braga, Ricardo described it as ‘a beautiful town’ and his eyes lit up when asked about the Estádio Municipal de Braga. “The stadium is amazing. It is built into a rock face and is wonderful to see and enjoy. All the stadiums were built for Euro 2004 but everyone talked about Braga and the first time I went there I could see why everyone was talking about it – it’s a beautiful structure.”
Ricardo Rocha says our UEFA Cup oppenents SC Braga’s strength is in the team ethic, rather than individuals and has highlighted his former club’s record at home.Portuguese international Joao Pinto is the most recognised player in the Braga line-up with a heavy Brazilian influence in the squad including youngster Diego, just 18, whose late goal at Parma secured their place in the last 16.