THERE’S a sole Europa League tie on the box early on Wednesday evening. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) was keen to share his betting thoughts.
Braga v Sion | Wednesday 17.00 | BT Sport ESPN
Ordinarily I wouldn’t dream of asking you to take a second look at a 5pm Europa League kick-off on a Wednesday evening involving Braga and Sion. That is, until you spot a potential betting opportunity.
I toyed with taking Braga in last week’s away leg in Switzerland and rued the decision not to when the Archbishops left Sion with a valuable 2-1 first leg lead. It was an entertaining tie in which the Portuguese visitors enjoyed more possession but lost the shot count; fortunately Paulo Fonseca’s troops were clinical in the final third.
The victory six days ago, coupled with Braga’s 3-3 draw against Vitoria Guimaraes at the weekend, has extended their unbeaten streak to 11 (W8-D3-L0) and means that since September, the Archbishops have only been beaten by big domestic rivals Sporting Lisbon, Benfica as well as Marseille (W20-D11-L3).
The 2011 finalists face an arduous task to displace the big-three in the Portuguese Liga but Fonseca’s charges are at least making headway on the continent. Home wins over Groningen, Marseille and Slovan Liberec comfortably secured their place in the last-32 and they should be confident in extending that excellent recent run at the Estadio Municipal this midweek.
Across all competitions this season, Braga have returned W13-D4-L1 when welcoming sides to their atmospheric quarry base as they’ve notched 43 goals and kept eight guests scoreless in those 18 outings. So odds of 4/6 (Bet365) for the hosts to deliver another knockout blow seems more than fair.
Sion will have been frustrated not to have taken more from the tie last Thursday night. It’s the Swiss side’s first appearance at this stage of the competition in 29 years but Didier Tholot’s men just don’t possess the goods to cause Braga enough problems on the road.
The travellers scraped four points from their three Group B away days but it’s worth noting Liverpool and Bordeaux fielded a scratch side and they left Rubin Kazan empty-handed. In fact, Sion have returned just a solitary success – the 1-0 beating of Bordeaux – in their past 10 years of continental travel (W1-D4-L4).
Domestically, Tholot’s troops are struggling in the bottom-half of the Swiss Super League standings and come into this contest on the back of a convincing 3-0 reverse at high-flying Grasshoppers. It’s a result that leaves the Swiss Cup winners just six points off the bottom of the table and a huge 27 behind table-topping Basel.
Sion’s 2015/16 record reads W11-D9-L11 but drill down into their results since late-September and it looks an ugly W4-D7-L9 with only four shutouts in those 20 fixtures, notching at least twice on just five occasions.
On their travels, the visitors have managed W5-D6-L6 but again, look a little closer and since late-September their record reads a less-than-impressive W2-D4-L5 with all five defeats coming ‘to nil’, shipping two or more goals in six of those 11 matches.
I’m going to have a play on the Asian Handicap market too. Braga -1 can be backed at 7/6 with BetVictor and sees our stake returned should the home side only win by a one-goal margin – the only way in which we’d lose our stake is if the Portuguese club failed to record a second leg success.
Sion have suffered defeats in four of their most recent six away days, netting two goals, with three of those losses arriving by a margin of two goals or more. In contrast, seven of Braga’s 13 triumphs at The Quarry have been delivered by clearing a one-goal handicap.
To be brutal, Braga are in a different league to Sion and odds of 4/6 suggest the Archbishops stand a 60% chance of winning this encounter. To me, that’s generous, so I’ll sink my teeth into both selections and look forward to seeing the Swiss side fold (hopefully).
Braga v Sion – Braga to win (4/6)
Braga v Sion – Braga -1 Asian Handicap (7/6 BetVictor)
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