While their weekend opponents SL Benfica have been striving for success in Europe, unheralded SC Braga have been ruling the roost in Portugal.
One of the stars of UEFA EURO 2004™, Braga's magnificent Municipal stadium will play host to the game between the shock league leaders and the reigning league champions on Saturday as Jesualdo Ferreira's side - nicknamed the 'Arsenalistas' for their red-and-white shirts - look to tame their rivals from Lisbon.
After losing their first league game of the season on 5 November, 1-0 at CS Marítimo, Braga are keen to get back to winning ways. "We lost for the first time against Marítimo and Benfica are favourites to win this game but I believe that we will win," said coach Ferreira.
No big deal
Braga will be without Paulo Jorge and Sidney but with midfielder Hugo Leal back from a knee injury, Ferreira was not too concerned. "This is not the most important game of the season for us," he said. "It's just another game. It's very simple: if Benfica want to win here they will have to play better than us."
Doing that may not be such an easy task. Ever since Braga bowed out of the UEFA Cup with a first-round defeat against FK Crvena Zvezda, they have been in sparkling form. With Benfica's energies sapped by European commitments, it will take a special performance from the Eagles to overcome the one-time underdogs.
Winning in Braga would be a hard enough task for coach Ronald Koeman even without the need to find replacements for injured goalkeeper José Moreira and Greek midfield player Georgios Karagounis. However, he has had better news with goalkeeper Quim, and strikers Simão and Fabrizio Miccoli fit to return.
"Simão is a very important player," said the Dutchman. "He is our captain and he can decide a game, as can Miccoli. We need some time before we have all our players available." Whether Braga, whose only previous honour was a Portuguese Cup success in 1966, can really claim the title remains open to debate. After a fourth placed finish in 2004/05, former Benfica coach Jesualdo is certainly hoping to prove his doubters wrong.
However, in the meantime he is urging his players just to enjoy leaving the traditional giants of Portuguese football in their wake. "We are not obsessed with staying top of the league until the end," he said. "We can feel very happy about standing where we are right now."
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