Former Hearts midfielder Bruno Aguiar has asserted that the Portuguese public expects Braga to defeat Rangers in the Europa League, as quoted by the Scottish Sun.
The two sides face off in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 contest on Thursday night at Ibrox.
The Gers made it to this stage by finishing runners-up in Group G, while Braga topped Group K ahead of Wolves, Slovan Bratislava and Besiktas.
Since the turn of the year, Steven Gerrard’s side have struggled domestically, while Braga have marched up the Primeira Liga table, and it seems that has raised expectations back in Portugal.
“Braga are a good side,” said Aguiar, as quoted by the Scottish Sun. “Ruben [Amorim] changed the system and they now use three central defenders. They have good players throughout the team and Paulinho scores a lot of goals.”
“In Portugal, people expect Braga to go through. That is also what I expect. They are in such good form right now that I feel it will be difficult to get the better of them over the two games.
“But Rangers are strong at Ibrox and they have a very good record in Europe this season.
“I see more of Braga than Rangers and I expect them to be too strong — but anything is possible.”
Rangers dwarf Braga in terms of the relative sizes of the clubs. 50,000 capacity Ibrox is regularly sold out across the season, while Braga, who have never won their domestic top-flight title, rarely attract more than 15,000 to home games.
It seems that recent developments have ensured that Rangers have the underdog tag coming into this game, though, and it’s one that Steven Gerrard will likely be happy enough to play.
The Gers were unfancied when drawn in an extremely difficult group, but used that as motivation to make it through and could do so again here.
A welcome distraction from Premiership failings, Thursday brings a great opportunity to go out and play without fear in search of a positive result.