The young duo of Luca Waldschmidt (left) and Darwin Nuñez (right) have terrorized opponents in recent weeks. Photo by @NahuelBeau (Twitter)
- Early-season title favorite Benfica entertains surging 3rd-place Braga on Sunday (3:00 PM EST) at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz
- Benfica is in the midst of an ugly defensive spell, having conceded three against Boavista (0-3) in its last league match, and three against Rangers (3-3) in a mid-week Europa League contest
- Get a breakdown of both clubs, Sunday’s odds and a few value picks below
There’s certainly a different flair to Benfica (5-0-1) this season under talismanic manager Jorge Jesus, with newcomers Luca Waldschmidt and Darwin Nuñez driving the Aguias‘ spirited attack.
There are also new faces in the team’s defense, and after conceding six goals in two matches many pundits are questioning whether the aging duo of Nicolas Otamendi (32) and Jan Vertonghen (33) is capable of holding down the fort for Benfica.
On the Braga (4-0-2) side of the matchup, Carlos Carvalhal’s side has steadied its ship with four league wins on the trot following a surprising 0-0-2 start to the season.
32-year-old Nico Gaitan is in good form for the Guerreiros while leading striker Paulinho is now signed through 2025 on a contract which should keep him at the club through his prime.
Benfica vs Braga Odds
|Benfica||-0.5 (-175)||-165||Over 2.5 (-175)|
|Braga||+0.5 (+128)||+380||Under 2.5 (+130)|
Odds taken Nov. 6 at DraftKings
While both sides have generally had strong starts to the campaign, it’s worth noting the variance in European form mid-week: 10-man Benfica roared back from 3-1 down against Steven Gerrard’s Ranger to earn a 3-3 draw, while Braga was played off the pitch in a 4-0 defeat at Leicester.
Braga is at its best when they’re defensively sound — conceding just once in the four victories prior to losing in England — and Carvalhal’s team was definitely not that on Thursday.
Benfica: Dawn of a New Day
Last season’s title collapse under Bruno Lage seems like a distant memory for Benfica, which has been reenergized by the return of Jorge Jesus to the dugout, and a handful of dynamic young signings.
Notwithstanding last weekend’s shock 0-3 defeat at Boavista, Benfica has been averaging roughly three goals per game over the past month; both Haris Seferovic (4) and Luca Waldschmidt (4) have been filling the net for the title hopefuls, who boast the most potent attack in Portugal.
Benfica vs Braga Stats
|5-0-1 (2.5 pts/game)||2020-21 Primeira Liga Record||4-0-2 (2.0 pts/game)|
|15 (2.50/game)||Goals scored||9 (1.50/game)|
|6 (1.00/game)||Goals conceded||5 (0.83/game)|
|Seferovic/Waldschmidt (4)||Leading Scorer||Galeno/Bruno Viana (2)|
|24-8-6||H2H Record (W-L-T)||6-8-24|
Braga: The In-Betweeners
Carvalhal certainly provides a managerial boast to Braga this season, and with Sporting enjoying a resurgence under ex-Braga boss Ruben Amorim the Guerreiros will have to be at their best from wire to wire in order to replicate last season’s 3rd-place finish.
The high-end pieces are definitely there in the team’s attack; Galeno is a pacy winger with good touch, and one could argue Paulinho and Ricardo Horta have underperformed to start the season with one solitary goal between them in nearly 900 minutes.
Not quite strong or deep enough to mount a title challenge, but consistently a 3rd- or 4th-place outfit: That’s Braga in a nutshell.
The loss at Leicester certainly sets Braga back in Europa League, where it will now likely need a result in Greece at AEK Athens to advance from Group G.
Both Waldschmidt (+120) and Nuñez (+108) have been absolute menaces in recent weeks for Benfica, and appear well on their way to earning big-money moves to larger European clubs; taking either one to score seems like a 50/50 toss up.
38 – Darwin Núñez has been involved in a SL Benfica Europa League goal every 38 minutes; only Kelechi Iheanacho has had a better ratio of minutes per goal involvment (27) among all players with 100+ minutes in the competition this season. Evolution. #UEL pic.twitter.com/smQRB1m8j1
— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) November 6, 2020
Braga won this meeting in Lisbon last season by a 1-nil scoreline but dropped the previous two meetings via 6-2 and 3-1 decisions.
Clearly, this will go one of two ways: Benfica’s offense will come to play and take home all three points, or Braga will lock things down and earn a road result.
We back the former.
Picks: Waldschmidt (+120), Over 3 (-103), and Benfica 2H (-113)
Carlos Verde is a sports media professional, with writing featured in a number of outlets, including the Epoch Times, Ottawa Life Magazine and Where is Football. He also served as a broadcast commentator for the United Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury FC.