?Wolverhampton Wanderers will welcome Portuguese club Braga in their first Europa League group match on Thursday.
The two sides are set to meet at the Molineux Stadium in their first Group K clash, with Turkish giants Besiktas and Slovenian side Slovan Bratislava making up the rest of the ensemble.
It was always going to be tricky for Wolves to replicate last season’s form in the Premier League this year due to the added European schedule. Forced to start their season at the end of July, it’s taken a toll on their domestic form.
After five league matches, Wolves have only claimed three points and find themselves 19th in the table. They will be glad to return to Europa League action, a competition they performed exceptionally in during the qualifiers, scoring 19 goals and winning all six matches.
Braga have also suffered a similarly miserable start to their domestic form. The Portuguese club find themselves 16th place in the Portuguese top flight, losing three and drawing one of their first five matches.
Where to Watch
|?When Is Kick Off?
||?Thursday 19 September
|?What Time Is Kick Off?
|?Where Is It Played?
|?TV Channel/Live Stream?
||?BT Sport ESPN
?Where to Buy Tickets
Tickets for the game are, as ever, available on both teams’ official club websites, though membership is required in order to purchase. In terms of resale, both teams provide the option to make season tickets available for others to use, if a supporter is unable to attend the game themselves.?
Wolves have a fully fit first team squad and no suspensions to report. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has rotated his squad for the Europa League matches and is likely to do so again.
The Molineux club have depth all around the field, and regular first team players Morgan Gibbs-White and Matt Doherty are likely to be involved from the start despite only featuring off bench in the last match.
With Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota completing 70 and 90 minutes respectively last weekend, new summer signings Patrick Cutrone and Pedro Neto will likely get some game time. Cutrone came off the bench to score at the weekend and seems more likely to start.
Meanwhile at Braga, back-up keeper Tiago Sa is out with a knee injury he picked up earlier this month. Centre back Vitor Tormena and winger Wilson Eduardo are both recovering from various muscle injuries.
Wallace came off at half-time against Vitoria but could still feature here. If not, he’ll likely be replaced in central defence by Pablo Santos.
||Rui Patrício; Coady, Boly, Bennett; Doherty, Dendoncker, João Moutinho, Gibbs-White, Castro Otto; Jimenez, Cutrone.?
||?Matheus; Esgaio, Viana, Wallace, Sequeira; Galeno, Fransergio, A.Horta, Palhinha, R.Horta; Paulinho, Novais.
Head to Head Record
The two sides have never faced each other, but this is Wolves’ seventh encounter against Portuguese competition.
Wolves have won their previous five of the six matches against the Portuguese clubs, maintaining a 100% win record at home. Their first Portuguese opponents were Academica Coimbra back in the 1971/72 UEFA Cup, the campaign where Wolves reached the final.
On the other hand, Braga have played English opponents on 18 occasions, with a record of six wins, two draws and ten defeats. They have only won once in England, when they beat ?Birmingham City 3-1 during the 2011/12 Europa League campaign.
Their most recent visit was a 3-2 loss against ?Manchester United in the 2012/13 Champions League, which saw them throw away a 2-0 lead.
As previously mentioned, ?Wolves have struggled in the Premier League this season. They are yet to win a league game this season and have lost their last two matches.
They opened the campaign with low-scoring draws against ?Leicester, Manchester United and ?Burnley, before losing a 3-2 thriller at Goodison Park, in which defender Willy Boly saw red at the death.
Wolves surprisingly lost 5-2 to Frank Lampard’s ?Chelsea at home. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side were 3-0 down at half-time and managed to pull a few back thanks to a second half Cutrone strike and Tammy Abraham’s own goal, but the result was still rather shocking.
Braga opened their league campaign with a 3-1 win against Moreirense, but haven’t won any of their four games since. They have already faced and lost to difficult opposition in Sporting CP and Benfica, as well as losing their last away match 1-0 against Setubal.
Here’s how each team has performed in their last five fixtures.
|?Wolves 2-5 Chelsea (14/9)
||?Setubal 1-0 Braga (13/9)
|?Everton 3-2 Wolves (1/9)
||?Braga 0-4 Benfica (1/9)
|?Wolves 2-1 Torino (29/8)
||?Spartak Moskva 1-2 Braga (29/8)
|?Wolves 1-1 Burnley (25/8)
||?Gil Vicente 1-1 Braga (25/8)
|?Torino 2-3 Wolves (22/8)
||?Braga 1-0 Spartak Moskva (22/8)
This is a difficult match to predict, as both of the teams are struggling in their respective leagues. Both won all of their Europa League qualifying matches, so one of the perfect records will have to give.
Home advantage should prove to be crucial for Wolves, with the Molineux supporters witnessing strong qualifying performances earlier this season.
Recently, Wolves have also increased the amount of goals they are scoring per game, bagging two in each of their last two defeats. This will be a threat for Braga, who have struggled to score many themselves, whilst conceding a fair few at their own end.
Braga have nothing to lose and are seen as the underdogs, so that could play in their advantage, but expect Wolves to grab the win.
Prediction: Wolves 3-1 Braga