Braga v Porto – 2011 Europa League Final

Braga v Porto – 2011 Europa League Final

Braga v Porto
Europa League Final
Dublin Arena
Wednesday 18 May 2011
Kickoff: 1945 BST

Portuguese duo Braga and Porto are set to take over Dublin in an all-Portuguese Europa League final on Wednesday night, with domestic champions Porto the clear favourites, as much for their dominant domestic performances as their free-scoring attacking performances in Europe and their young hotshot manager, Andre Villas-Boas.

Porto finished 38 points ahead of Braga (4th) in the Primeira Liga and go into the final as only the second Portuguese club to finish a league season unbeaten – after Benfica’s 1972-73 team. And with Porto playing Guimaraes in the Portuguese Cup final on Sunday, Villas-Boas could easily lead Porto to a remarkable treble in his first season at the club.

And yet this focus on Porto will suit Braga just fine, who have thrived in previous seasons on their underdog status. They have a tough task ahead of them having not beaten Porto in almost two seasons but as Braga have kept saying in the build-up to this game, it’s a one-off game where for 90 minutes, Braga are fully capable of springing a surprise.

Anything Braga do will invariably be predicated on stopping Porto from scoring – Porto have scored more than 130 goals this season, including 36 in the Europa League. Strikers Hulk and Radamel Falcao have contributed 63 of those goals, and they’ll be leading the line on Wednesday night. And if they can keep a clean sheet, their next challenge will be to find a goal, and looking at their performances in Europe this season it’s likely to come from a set-piece.

Braga Relying On Set-Pieces

Sporting Braga’s last four goals in the competition have all been scored from dead-ball situations.

Braga have scored only six goals in eight Europa League games this season but have nevertheless managed to make it to their first ever European final. Their last four strikes, all vital, have come from set-pieces (see table below), which means Porto will have to be wary of conceding any fouls or corners. Ex-Newcastle Utd midfielder Hugo Viana has been the most potent threat for Braga, with six attempts from set-pieces, but he has yet to find the net.

The downturn is that Braga have failed to score from open play in their last 594 minutes of play, a worrying stat for Domingo Paciencia’s men but which will prove irrelevant if they can manage to capitalise on their ability from dead balls.

Porto’s Falcao Makes European Football History

Falcao has surpassed Jurgen Klinsmann’s single season record in a European campaign.

The Colombian striker has netted an incredible 16 times in 13 games in the Europa League this season, a total which includes three hat-tricks. A flair player whose skill lies in being in the right position at the right time, he’s touched the ball more times than any other player in the opposition box (79).

Unsurprisingly, none of his 16 strikes have come from distance, all of them being scored from inside the penalty area. Comfortable with the ball in the air or at his feet, he’s scored six headed goals, seven with his right foot and three with his left. Half of his 16 strikes have also been scored from set-pieces, symbolic of his threat in any phase of play. Meanwhile, he is far more potent after the half-time break, which could prove timely given Braga’s expected defensive approach and the likelihood of Porto needing to secure the trophy late on.