Braga vs Zorya – Thursday, August 16, 20:30 BST/21:30 CEST – Estádio Municipal de Braga, Braga, Portugal
Everything is still to play for when the Europa League tie between Portuguese side Braga and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk heads to the Estádio Municipal. The first leg between the two sides ended in 1-1 draw.
That result will give a small advantage to Sporting Braga ahead of the second leg. For Braga, a win or even a 0-0 draw would be enough to head through to the Europa League playoffs.
Braga, in fact, have taken the momentum from that result to the first match of the Liga NOS season. Facing CD Nacional Abel Ferreira’s side won 4-2 to set the stage for another successful domestic season.
The Portuguese side, like Zorya, are an experienced side when it comes to European football, however. Braga have qualified for European football in every season going back all the way to 2005/06. Furthermore, the last time the club failed to make the group stage of a UEFA competition was in 2013/14.
Zorya, however, have garnered some significant Europa League experience themselves over the last two seasons and will not go out without a fight. In fact, Zorya Luhansk managed to gain three of their six points on the road on the Iberian peninsula when they beat Bilbao based Athletic 1-0 on the road.
Furthermore, after a relatively slow start to the Ukrainian Premier League season Zorya are now hitting their form. The club beat Karpaty on the weekend 1-0 – recording their second win of the season.
Now in fourth place with seven points in four games head coach Yuri Vernydub seems to have found a balance between domestic play and international qualifiers.
With this in mind, the second leg favours Braga. But Zorya are no strangers when it comes to upsetting the apple-cart on the road and have shown in the past that they are no Europa League pushovers.
Braga vs Zorya – Players to look out for:
Ricardo Horta #21 – Braga
Ricardo Horta will be the Braga player to watch. The 23-year-old winger scored two goals on the weekend against CD Nacional. Signed from Malaga in the summer of 2017 Horta managed 11 goals and eight assists in 30 Liga NOS games last season. Capable of playing on both wings and with fantastic goal scoring touch the winger will be a dangerman for Braga on Thursday.
Rafael Ratão #21 – Zorya Luhansk
For a long-time Zorya was nothing more than a feeder team for Shakhtar Donetsk. For many years the backbone of the squad was, therefore, formed by loanees from Shakhtar’s youth system. That approach changed in the last two years, however, with the club now operating completely independent from Shakhtar. As a result, Zorya now have more control over the players they bring in, and one of the new signings was Brazilian striker Rafael Ratão, who was signed from the Brazilian Série B side Oeste Futebol Clube. In Ukraine, the 22-year-old Rafael Ratão now tries to find a more permanent home after having played for an army of clubs since becoming a professional during the 2013/14 season while playing for Ponte Preta.
Braga vs Zorya – Match Stats
- Both sides entering the competition at this stage
- Zorya out in group stage last season, Braga reached the round of 32
- Winners face RB Leipzig/U Craiova in playoffs
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Braga vs Zorya – 1-2
Braga vs Zorya – Lineups
Matheus – Sequeira, Viana, Raúl Silva, Marcelo Goiano – Claudemir, João Novais – Horta, Esgaio – Eduardo, Dyego Sousa
Head Coach: Abel Ferreira
Makharadze – Mykhaylychenko, Svatok, Verydub, Kamenyuka – Karavaev, Kharatin, Silas – Khomchenosky, Rafael Ratão, Lednev
Head Coach: Yuri Vernydub
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.