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Monday, 26 March 2012 09:12

Lucky 13 for Braga?

Arsenalistas continue to be record breakers and problem makers 

leonardo-jardim-20120326.jpgAnother chapter in the amazing story of Braga going toe to toe with Portugal’s elite clubs, despite a vastly inferior budget and an incomparably lower fan base, could be written this evening. Braga will hit top spot in the table for the first time this season if they beat Academica tonight at the AXA stadium, with six rounds of the 2011/12 championship remaining.
 
On paper it seems like a dead cert with the students from Coimbra having only won only league game in exactly six months since their impressive start to the season. That win came away to Olhanense who have held Porto, Benfica and Sporting at home. Unfortunately for Pedro Emanuel’s team, Academica’s run to the Portuguese Cup final has been in stark contrast to their league displays. Three goals in their last nine games compared to Braga’s twenty-five over the same period speaks for itself.
 

Lima on fire

lima-20120310.jpgBrazilian striker Lima has now scored 21 in his last 23 competitive games for Braga including an impressive 17 in his last 14 league games. If they beat Academica tonight, the northerners will match the feats of other record holders in Portugal, joining the likes of Mourinho’s 2003 Porto vintage, Porto from 1978, Benfica from 1953 and 1961 and Sporting of 1954 as teams who have managed 13 consecutive victories. Above those there are only 5 teams with longer winning streaks in the history of the league.
 
Another club record that seems inevitable to fall is the most goals scored in a season. Braga stand seven short of their best ever 58 in a season. With seven games remaining it seems highly probable that record will also be broken.
 
A word of warning. Academica have impressively taken points from all of the leading teams this season. So don’t rule out the idea of Academica pulling off a surprise. Even during their recent barren run of form, the Coimbra club have held both Benfica and Porto in the last four weeks, not to mention dumping Porto 3-0 out of the Portuguese Cup on their run to the final.
 
It won’t be the first time Braga have climbed to the top of the ladder but it surely is one of the most critical times in their history. On the back end of a demoralising defeat to Gil Vicente, who thoroughly deserved their League Cup Final place, Braga will hope to bounce back with a vengeance and finish off Academica before the second half starts.
 

Killer instinct required

That killer instinct was missing recently in games against Gil and Leiria (where they dangerously flirted with a draw), and if Braga have hopes of pushing themselves all the way for the title they need to kill off  the perceived weak team when they have the chance. Yet there is no getting away from the fact that the Guerreiros do Minho start the match as big favourites. Braga have scored the same amount of goals in their last seven games as Academica have in the entire season.
 
Should Braga go top, the task of staying there will not be easy. First, on Saturday night, they go to Benfica, where they have won only once in sixty (yes 60!!) attempts, and that lone triumph was way back in 1955. A similar result would surely put them in the mood to take on Porto at home the following week. However, if the wheels come off against Benfica, it still may be far from over. Defeat could mean they lose three vital points, but a Sporting victory in the Lisbon derby a week later would put Braga back in the race should they beat Porto.
 
There is still a lot of football to be played in this league. Twists and turns that nobody can foresee. We’ve seen it all this season, from training pitch invasions, to referee boycotts, to amateur referees, to Benfica and Porto dropping considerable leads, an impressive run by Braga, Gil and Academica making it to the finals of the domestic cups, Sporting and Benfica both still in Europe and the possibility of a sixth team in the history of Portuguese football winning the league.
 

Title run-in to answer intriguing questions

The league has never resided outside of either Lisbon or Porto. Can Braga follow up the Intertoto Cup of 2009, the league runners-up performance of 2010 and the Europa League Cup runners-up achievement of last year with a league championship in 2012? Or will Braga be forever the bridesmaid and never the bride? Only time will tell.
 
Antonio SalvadorPresident Antonio Salvador saved Braga when they were on the brink of financial collapse in 2003, and now everything smells of roses in the garden. Can Jesus save his floundering apostles who seem to have lost their way, and can Victor Pereira finally get rid of the ghost of Christmas past and prove that he has the ability to occupy the seat vacated after enormous success by Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas. If Leonardo Jardim does pull off a miracle is there a possibility he will receive an invitation as either Jorge Jesus or Victor Pereira are shown the door? Could the unthinkable happen and both of them get fired?
 
One thing is for sure. I haven’t see Sa Pinto getting involved in a scuffle yet, and if there is one thing inevitable in Portuguese football it is that there will be a fight night somewhere along the line. Whether that transpires or not, we shall have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure. If there is, Braga will be right in the thick of it.
 
by Karl Donnelly
 
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Comments (2)
wonderful Braga
2 Monday, 26 March 2012 15:32
yes you can
Forca Braga Ruma ao titulo!
1 Monday, 26 March 2012 12:27
Lets go Baby!

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