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UEFA Champions League Betting Preview: Union Berlin vs Braga

October 3, 2023

Union Berlin will take on Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday, October 3rd.

Braga and Union Berlin sit third and fourth in Group C, respectively, level on zero points. Atop the group on three points are Serie A champions Napoli and 14-time Champions League winners Real Madrid.

Union Berlin and Braga were already drawn together in last season's Europa League group stage, when both sides won their home game 1-0.

The German side won the last meeting between the clubs, triumphing 1-0 at Stadion An der Alten Försterei last October.

Union Berlin Betting Preview (-106 at MyBookie)

Finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season, Union Berlin's incredible progress continued as the Iron Ones qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history. It's been another huge achievement for the club since Swiss head coach Urs Fischer joined the capital club in June 2018. 

Remarkably, Fischer won the Football Manager of the Year award in Germany for 2023, becoming the first non-German to do so since Louis van Gaal in 2010.  

Urs Fischer's side enjoyed a promising start to the new campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win at Regionalliga side FC Astoria Walldorf in the German Cup, followed by back-to-back 4-1 wins over Mainz 05 and newly-promoted Darmstadt in the Bundesliga. However, the East Berlin outfit suffered a heavy 3-0 home defeat to RB Leipzig in their last match prior to last month's international break, which led to four more losses across all competitions.

Union Berlin made their Champions League debut against Real Madrid when they suffered an unfortunate last-gasp 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu on matchday one.

The Iron Ones suffered yet another setback last weekend as they lost 1-0 at the hands of newly promoted FC Heidenheim - their fifth defeat in a row. 

Lucas Tousart, who joined Union Berlin from city rivals Hertha BSC over the summer, should keep his starting spot in the middle of the park. The Frenchman recovered from a hamstring injury during last month's international break and is tipped to start alongside Alex Kral and Aïssa Laïdouni.

Elsewhere, Josip Juranovic, who remained an unused substitute at Heidenheim last time out, could get the nod over veteran-skipper Christopher Trimmel at right wing-back.

Up front, Kevin Volland, David Datro Fofana and the USMNT international Brenden Aaronson will all be pushing for starts, though Urs Fischer could stick with his favorite duo of Kevin Behrens and Sheraldo Becker. The latter is yet to score in the Bundesliga this season while Behrens netted four goals in the opening two rounds (including his first Bundesliga hat-trick against Mainz 05), but also failed to score since.

Behrens' aerial ability shouldn't be underestimated as all of the 32-year-old German forward's goals this season were scored with his head. 

Kevin Volland was suspended for the weekend clash at the Voith-Arena but the experienced German forward is available for selection in the Champions League on Tuesday. 

Diogo Leite is set to face his former club as the Portuguese defender is expected to feature in a back three alongside Danilho Doekhi and Italian veteran Leonardo Bonucci.

Meanwhile, Laurenz Dehl, Rani Khedira, András Schäfer and Robin Knoche, who scored the winner against Braga from the penalty spot last year, are all recovering from injuries for Union Berlin, while Danish forward Mikkel Kaufmann has been left out of the Champions League squad.

Braga Betting Preview (+290 at MyBookie)

The Archbishops travel to Germany to face Union Berlin on Tuesday night. After a perfect qualifying campaign, with Braga successfully overcoming TSC Backa Topola of Serbia and Greek giants Panathinaikos, Braga suffered a 2-1 loss to Serie A champions Napoli at the Estádio Municipal de Braga in their Champions League opener last month.

Braga returned inside the top three of the Portuguese Primeira Liga for the first time after 2019-20. They were really unlucky to only settle for a Europa League spot back then (due to Portugal's UEFA coefficient) but this wasn't the case last season.

It seems that the promotion of Artur Jorge was a wise move from Braga. The former defender accumulated 240 senior appearances for Braga between 1992-2004 and made his way to the head coach position through various youth formations and Braga B squad over the years.

On 18 May 2022, he was reappointed at the helm of the main squad following Carlos Carvalhal's departure. Jorge already led his home club for a couple of games in July 2020 when he secured a third place finish after a 2-1 final day victory over champions FC Porto.

Jorge's first full season at the Estádio Municipal de Braga was the best in the club's history for points (78), wins (25) and goals (75), as they ultimately beat Sporting CP to third place and sealed a long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 11 years.

As a result, Braga are enjoying their first Champions League group stage appearance since 2012-13, when they finished bottom of a group consisting of Manchester United, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj.

Braga managed to keep the core of their team, with a number of signings joining the club over the summer and several backup players departing.

With 17 goals across all competitions (14 of them in the league), Ricardo Horta was Braga's top goalscorer last season and he's once again a leading figure in Artur Jorge's setup this term. Captain Horta already boasts five goals and two assists in six league games and he also did remarkably well in the Champions League qualifiers - adding five assists in four games.

In stark contrast with his domestic form, Bruma has been doing quite well in continental games. Bruma has been directly involved in five goals in as many Champions league appearances this term (four goals and one assist), including Braga's goal against Napoli two weeks ago.

French forward Simon Banza has been another standout performer for Braga this term. He has scored a goal in each of his last four Primeira Liga appearances, but was only introduced as a late substitute against Napoli in the Champions League.

Considering Banza's strong form of late, Artur Jorge could opt to hand him a start against Union Berlin, or at least more playing minutes, with Spanish forward Abel Ruiz scoring just one goal in 10 matches this season.

Meanwhile, Vitinha, who scored the winner in Braga's 1-0 Europa League win over Union Berlin last September, left the Portuguese side to join Olympique Marseille in January. 

In addition to the transfers of Bruma, Victor Gomez, Rodrigo Zalazar and a few others, Artur Jorge aimed to bolster his unit with the arrival of two extremely experienced figures - Portugal veterans Jose Fonte and Joao Moutinho both joined Braga on a free transfer.

Víctor Gómez picked up an injury early in Braga's 4-2 victory at Estrela da Amadora last week and the Spanish right-back's absence is a massive blow for the Portuguese outfit. Gómez has been a mainstay in Braga's defensive four this season, with Artur Jorge thinking on the potential rotations.

Swedish youngster Joe Mendes is the only natural right-back option for Braga at the moment, though Turkish defender Serdar Saatci could also be moved in an untypical role which was the case in Reboleira on Thursday. 

With that said, Bruma and Alvaro Djalo, who scored a brace against CF Estrela on Thursday, are competing for a starting spot on the wing, assuming that both Pizzi and skipper Andre Horta are sure to start.

Possible Starting Lineups of Union Berlin and Braga

Union Berlin: Frederik Rönnow - Diogo Leite, Leonardo Bonucci, Danilho Doekhi - Robin Gosens, Aïssa Laïdouni, Lucas Tousart, Janik Haberer, Josip Juranovic - Sheraldo Becker, Kevin Behrens. (3-5-2)

Braga: Matheus - Serdar Saatci, Jose Fonte, Sikou Niakaté, Cristián Borja - Al-Musrati, Rodrigo Zalazar - Andre Horta, Pizzi, Alvaro Djalo - Simon Banza. (4-2-3-1)

Spooky Express Betting Prediction

Urs Fischer's side have lost their last five games in all competitions and have only scored once in the period. With that said, they will be desperate to turn things around before the upcoming international break right after this week. 

Braga, on the other hand, will travel to Berlin on the back of a 4-2 league victory over Estrela da Amadora at the Estádio José Gomes on Thursday night.

Both teams have scored in each of Braga's last six matches across all competitions. Moreover, this also happened in all but two of their matches this season - a 3-0 home win over TSC Backa Topola as well as a 1-0 win at Panathinaikos in August.

Union Berlin will be keen to exploit Braga's defensive issues but they must also resolve their own. Last but not least, Union are not able to play their Champions League home games at their own ground. Instead, they are scheduled to play at the Olympiastadion - the stadium of their city rivals Hertha BSC - and this shouldn't be overlooked at all.

A defeat won't be happily welcomed by either of them, that's for sure, but Union Berlin's current crisis piles up more pressure on the home side, while Braga desperately need to earn points ahead of consecutive matches with Real Madrid in their next Champions League games.

Braga are capable of scoring goals but they also look vulnerable in their own half so we expect goals at both ends here.

Spooky Express Pick: Both Teams To Score - Yes -125 at MyBookie for 7/10 Units