As Liga Portugal action resumes after the international break, Sporting Braga host league leaders Benfica in a heavyweight clash on Saturday, December 30. The Eagles have an eight-point lead at the top over defending champions FC Porto and are eyeing their first league title in four seasons. Meanwhile, third-placed Braga will be keen to halt the leaders’ momentum by taking all three points at home.

Season’s overview 

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

Braga have won nine, drawn one, and lost three matches this season. Their form has slightly dipped recently, with two losses and three wins from their last five league fixtures. Carlos Carvahal’s team has scored 29 goals with an average xG rate of 2.18. The defence has conceded 12 goals with an average xGA rate of 1.21. The viz above shows the percentile rank of Braga in comparison to other Liga Portugal teams. Their overall high percentile rank shows they are competent in attack and defence.

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

Benfica are unbeaten in their campaign with 12 wins and a draw from 13 matches. They are on a five-match winning streak and go into the match as favourites. This season, Roger Schmidt’s side has scored 37 goals and conceded only seven. They average 2.44 xG and 0.53 xGA per match. The above viz shows that Benfica has been the best team this season, with an exceptional percentile rank in all the departments.

Positional attacks, counterattacks, and entries into the penalty area

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

Braga creates 33.69 positional attacks and 2.08 counterattacks per match. They take 18.7 shots and have an accuracy rate of 39.5%. Meanwhile, Benfica creates 41 positional attacks and 2.08 counterattacks per match. They attempt 17.5 shots with a 36.1% accuracy rate. The visuals above show that both teams have the highest efficiency of positional attacks in the league, but Braga is more potent with their counterattacks.

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica
Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

While both teams possess an attacking threat, Benfica enjoys higher efficiency in terms of attacking output. The Eagles launch 24 attacks through central zones per match, which is the most, but Braga isn’t far behind. In terms of entries into the opposing penalty box, the situation is similar. While Benfica makes the most entries, Braga is right on their tails. We can expect Benfica to enjoy more possession of the ball in this fixture, with Braga looking to hurt them by launching quick counterattacks.

Key players

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

Goncalo Ramos has settled into a leading role in Benfica’s attack this season. He is the league’s leading goal scorer this season with nine goals in eleven appearances and also has three assists. All of his shots have come from inside the penalty box, and he has been sublime in front of the goal. Going into the fixture, the 21-year-old will be keen to carry on with his prolific goal-scoring form from the World Cup.

Liga Portugal Preview: Braga vs Benfica

One of Braga’s key attackers, Vitinha, will be a test for Benfica’s defence. The 22-year-old is Braga’s joint-top goal scorer with five goals and also has two assists to his name. In the same fixture last season, Vitinha netted the winner in a five-goal thriller. He will again be crucial for his team to mount any sort of threat against the Eagles’ backline.

Team News

Both Sporting Braga and Benfica are expected to put out a full-strength starting eleven with no known injuries or suspensions in their squads. However, players like Iuri Medeiros, Vitor Tormena, and Rafa Silva are at risk of facing suspension after accumulating four yellow cards.

The stats indicate a highly competitive and thrilling fixture is on the cards. At their home, Braga will pose a tough challenge to the leaders to consolidate their top-three position. Benfica, on the other hand, will want to collect all three points to maintain their unbeaten run and dominance in the league.

Visuals via TFA data viz engine