The resemblance to Arsenal is deliberate - but ends with the strip

Braga do not have a playing squad brimming with international class talent. There was not a single current internationalist in the squad for the Presentation Game against Athletic Bilbao that was their main preparation game for the tie against Celtic now fixed for Wednesday 28th July in their AXA Stadium.

In building their squad Braga have relied on the close links between Brazil and Portugal and no less than 15 of the squad likely to face Celtic were born in Brazil. But none of them are good enough ever to have played for the country of their birth.

 There is no doubt that last season, 2009-2010 Braga were a team that played football that was both effective and attractive. But that team has been dismantled. International class goalkeeper Eduardo has been sold to Genoa. The two classy attacking full backs, Joao Pereira and Evaldo have both been sold to Sporting Lisbon. Most importantly the midfielder behind their most constructive plays, Hugo Viana has left, recalled by Valencia. Valencia do not want him but neither Braga nor even Sporting Lisbon who expressed a strong interest, can afford to buy him. His spell in the United Kingdom with Newcastle United was not a total success but Viana is that rare creature a creative midfield player capable of bursts of genius and Neil Lennon could do worse than consider him as a more constructive and harder working option than McGeady or Nakamura. To add to Braga’s midfield loss, Viana’s water carrier from last season, Mossoro, is seriously injured and will not play against Celtic. So 5 of last season’s team have gone, including their 3 international class players. And the good news from Celtic’s point of view is that not only do the individual replacements not have the same class, the effect of the loss on the team’s cohesion and understanding has been considerable.

Paciencia a good coach who knows his side have problems

So Celtic will not be facing the team that ran Benfica so close last season. They will be facing a considerably poorer team. This was demonstrated in the Presentation game the other day when Braga lost 3-1 to an Athletic Bilbao side well behind them in terms of length of pre-season preparation. The Braga coach Paciencia argued after the game that his main XI, the one he started with, ended up the first half with a 1-0 lead thanks to a penalty from last season’s top scorer Ze Meyong. And that the 7 changes he made for the second half spoiled the team’s cohesion and rhythm. There is some truth in that claim but the main lesson from the game was that Braga are not anywhere near as good as they were last season. Even Paciencia acknowledged that the team did not play well, made many mistakes, and needed to learn the lessons from these mistakes. He acknowledged his team would have to play much better to have any chance against Celtic.

From the Bilbao game, and the other earlier friendlies, it is possible to do a reasonable estimate of the side Celtic will face and the way they will play.

The goalkeeper will be Artur, recently signed from Roma, where he was only the third best Brazilian keeper on their books 

The two centre backs are likely to be the same solid pairing as last season, Rodriguez and the Brazilian Moises. The right back will be either Miguel Garcia a reserve last season or new Brazilian signing George Lucas. Left back will be either the Nigerian Elderson, the Brazilain Eduardo, or new Portuguese signing Silvio. None of the five are a patch on the pair snaffled up by Sporting, who both played against Celtic the other day.

The first three across the midfield will be Vandindo a competent Brazilian, new signing Leandro Salino and star player Alan, a Brazilian who once played for Porto.

Braga's star player - will need close scrutiny

The fourth midfielder who will occasionally push up to transform the normal 4:4:2 into a more attacking 4:3:3 will be either Paulo Cesar or new signing Helder Barbosa. Collectively this is nowhere near as affective a unit as that dominated by Viana, assisted by Mossoro. Alan on his day can be a very good player and he is the one Lennon should pay most attention to and ensure he is not allowed to exercise too much influence.

Starting up front definitely will be Ze Meyong who last season was the only Braga player to get into double figures for goals scored. His most likely partner will be yet another  Brazilian signing Rodrigo Lima. Other less experienced options are Pizzi, Keita or Matheus who has been carrying an injury and missed the Bilbao game. None of these players can be classed a stop class strikers. Ze Meyong was exposed as a poor player when he tried the Spanish League with Levante and while his confidence has been rebuilt since his return to Portugal, he is hardly a fearsome for. None of the rest are better than competent, which might be a generous description.

Braga are still desperately trying to tie up the signature of Luis Aguiar, a Uruguayan who played some games with them last season before returning to Loco Moscow. He was registered with UEFA although not yet signed. If signed in next couple of days he may replace Salino or Vandinho in midfield. It could be Braga will face Celtic with up to three players Artur, Silvio and Luis Aguiar who have not even played one warm up game for the club.

Braga can do the huddle - but Cerltic should do them

Braga were delighted with the positive comments new Celtic manager Neil Lennon made about them. It appears obvious that they hope that he will treat them with overdue respect based on the reports of last season’s form. GGW hope that Celtic’s scouting systems have already provide Lennon with the full information that Braga are nowhere near as formidable as they were last season and do not need to be treated with too much respect. While the memories of Artmedia will always be there to caution against undue complacency it is equally important not to over-rate rivals who are not as good as Celtic. Braga were the weakest option Celtic could have got for this 3rd Round qualification tie. The current Celtic side should be well capable of beating them. If they approach the tie with confidence rather than fear and work very hard then they should progress to the Final Playoff Round where they will be guaranteed much more formidable opposition