Often Partisan

Off to Partizan – the Braga Preview

Wednesday marks the final away game of the Europa League Group stage, and what is potentially Blues’ last trip into Europe for a while – win or draw and we could be back on tour in February in the knockout rounds; lose and that is most likely to be it.

Whilst Blues haven’t been in the best of form since drawing 2-2 with Club Brugge (1 win, 2 draws and a defeat in four games), neither have Braga. Admittedly Braga have faced the three heavyweights of the Liga Zon Sagres in Porto, Sporting and Benfica – but they have failed to win in each of their three outings since their 5-1 demolition of NK Maribor. Their most recent game was a 3-2 away defeat to Porto that was more one-sided than the scoreline suggests; two late goals for Lima pegged it back for the Arsenalistas to give a more respectable scoreline.

From having a quick look on the Braga fans forum, it appears that the locals aren’t too happy with the timing or pricing for this game. The game kicks off at 7pm CET (6pm GMT), which is inconvenient for many of the home fans who work later than that, and there is quite a bit of complaining that the tickets are too expensively priced. This could work in our favour if there is a lower home crowd than usual; Blues are expecting to take 1500 or so to the Estádio AXA and if the backing is anything like the vociferous noise that fans made in Brugge then I think the players could definitely feel spurred on to victory.

It’s a bit early for Blues team news; question marks will be against the fitness of Liam Ridgewell and Morgaro Gomis who both missed the Blackpool game with injury but are probably close to returning to fitness; Stephen Carr has barely figured in the Europa League for whatever reason and I don’t expect him to against Braga either. I think it’s likely we’ll see Spector move back to right back with N’Daw taking his spot in the middle; I also think the pace of Nathan Redmond will be seen as a useful asset and he’ll be on the bench at a minimum.

The home game against Braga was closer than the 3-1 scoreline suggested; the main difference between the teams being absolutely clinical finishing from Braga and I think this is what Blues need to be aware of; chances need to be taken and the frontline (whoever is picked) needs to be ruthless in their finishing. For instance, if Adam Rooney had put his shot the right side of the post in the first five minutes against Braga, how different would that game have been? Blues have been creating chances in their recent games – there is no denying that Blues have efforts on goal but it’s been said repeatedly that they’re not sticking enough in the onion bag.

For those who can’t make it to Portugal, the game is live on ITV4 (Freeview channel 24, Sky channel 120, Virgin Media channel 118), kick off at 6pm GMT. Let’s hope Blues can keep up their unbeaten away Europa League record.

Match previews sponsored by EZE Group - Lifestyle Experts

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