Thursday's Europa Conference League predictions: Braga to land first blow
There is plenty of Europa Conference League action to get stuck into on Thursday, with no less than eight first-leg knockout round play-off ties taking place across the evening.
Braga vs Fiorentina (Thursday, 5.45pm)
Braga's 2-1 win at Maritimo last time out made it eight wins from their previous nine fixtures across all competitions, a run of results which has helped them to the semi-finals of the Taca de Portugal and to third in the Portuguese top flight.
Artur Jorge's side have been formidable at home, winning their last eight matches with an aggregate score of 19-5, while they have only lost one of their previous 10 assignments at the Estadio Municipal de Braga.
Fiorentina have lost their last two outings to Bologna and Juventus, leaving them down in 14th position in Serie A, while they have only managed to pick up one win from their last six outings across all competitions and are winless in their previous four away games.
Braga's fantastic home form and an impressive run of recent results make it hard to look past anything other than a home win, especially as they take on a Fiorentina side struggling for consistency.
Trabzonspor vs Basel (Thursday, 5.45pm)
Trabzonspor have won four of their last six matches across all competitions, and they were the top scorers in Group H of the Europa League, netting 11 times as they finished third to drop into the Europa Conference League.
Abdullah Avcı's troops have racked up six straight home victories, all of those coming to nil, while they have kept 10 clean sheets from their last 11 matches at Akyazı Stadium.
Basel's form in 2023 has been patchy, as they have won two, lost two and drawn one of their five assignments, and they have been hit-and-miss in front of goal with blanks drawn in two of their last four away games.
With Trabzonspor 16 points off the pace in the battle for league glory, their main focus will now be on lifting silverware in Europe, and their sensational home form and defensive qualities can help them move a step closer to the last 16 on Thursday.
Lazio vs CFR Cluj (Thursday, 8pm)
Lazio have hit a bump in the road of late, failing to win any of their last four matches across all competitions. Still, they are unbeaten at home in Europe since a 4-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in February 2021, a run of seven games.
Romanian club CFR Cluj are sitting second in Liga I, just two points off the top spot, but they have lost their last two matches and have failed to score in both of those defeats.
Dan Petrescu's side have struggled in the final third in the Europa Conference League, drawing blanks in three of their last five away contests in the competition, and that lack of cutting-edge could hamper them again.
The Stadio Olimpico has, generally, been a happy venue for Lazio over recent seasons, and home advantage should play a big part in Thursday's meeting.