11 games to go and Braga are both in contention for an unedited Champions League place but also, and more importantly, the Portuguese league championship. Lying 1 point behind Benfica with a game in hand (away to Porto next week) the dream has never been more alive. After yesterday’s march from the centre of the city (2,000 people) and over 30,000 in the stadium, Braga overcame a stubborn and well organised Maritimo team chasing 4th place in the league. Although a really bad error by the linesman grabbed the headlines, in which Braga played outside the four lines for the first time this season, (which Benfica are habitual abusers) and having 3 players who normally start (Vandinho, Mossoro and Moises) due to the incompetency of the CD (Disciplinary Committee) and also having 2 key players injured (P Cesar and Renteria) Braga scored a vital second goal after Maritimo had decided to settle for a draw. Obviously both enfica and Porto would have preferred Braga to drop points but I’m also sure that Sporting Lisbon supporters sighed with a breath of relief. Maritimo are the main challengers to Sporting Lisbon’s 4th place and have a much better run into the final. Their hardest games being Sporting (home) and Porto (away) whereas Sporting Lisbon have to travel to Maritimo and Benfica and play Porto at home.
The powers that be would dearly love Benfica to win the league. Half the countries loves Benfica and the other half hate them. There have been lots of incidents involvign Benfica this season. 12 players sent off against them in 20 games. 8 penalties in 20 games. Vandinho(Braga) received a three month ban for an incident that did not appear in the referees report of a game that happened three months ago. On the last day of the transfer deadline he was banned, three months after the incidient occured, allowing little time for replacement of the club captain during the transfer period. There is even video evidence which clearly shows nothing happened. The incident happened after Di Maria (Benfica) spat in the direction of the Braga bench and kicked the match ball at them when the referee had blown for half time. This is not the only incident in tunnels involving Benfica. Nacional, Olhanense and Porto have also happened with Hulk and Saparanu of Porto both receiving unlimited playing bans since the match took place way back in December. The incident was an alleged assaualt of two stewards. Ironically both are eligible to play against Arsenal this week as a national ban does not include international competitions.
The final ten games after next weeks Porto-Braga game will show the depth in quality of both Benfica and Porto. Porto have a minimum of 16 games left(with a possible 17 if they reach the Portuguese cup final and Benfica have 15 left if they pass Hertha Berlin in the Europa league. These games will be played in a little over 11 weeks meaing a lot of mid week games for both teams… Braga on the other hand are free from cup games and should have a considerably lighter run in until the decisive day, Week 30, on May 9th. The last third of the season should be nothing less than spectacular. Come on Braga!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Week 20 Porto V Braga
Week 21 Sporting V Porto
Week 24 Benfica V Braga
Week 26 Benifca V Sporting
Week 29 Porto V Benfica