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The big three of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon are facing an unlikely challenger.

If you made a list of the teams you would have expected to be top of the Portuguese Liga by October, Sporting Braga would not have been one of them.

After the departure of coach Jorge Jesus to Benfica and early elimination from the Europa League, “the Arsenal” just wanted to find their feet at the start of this campaign.

But they have done so much more than that, setting a club record with seven consecutive victories to give new boss Domingos Paciencia hope that Braga could become only the second club in half a century outside the traditional big three of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon to win the title.

Domingos, who was a seven-times champion as a player with Porto, has tried to avoid talking about his side’s title aspirations but even he now admits: “I have a quality team and we can go toe to toe with the big three.”

So, how have Braga done it? Their defensive solidity has had a lot to do with their success. Current national goalkeeper Eduardo is the best in the land and, aided by a solid back line, he conceded just three goals in the opening seven games.

And the influence of Hugo Viana in midfield cannot be overlooked. The left-footed maestro, who struggled abroad at Newcastle United and Valencia, has enjoyed a magical revival since returning home on loan from the Spanish side.

Last but not least, the versatility and mobility of the front trio has contributed massively. Cameroon international Albert Meyong and Brazilians Paulo Cesar and Alan have created havoc in opposition defences, with all three of them having scored important goals in a run
which has seen Braga beat both Sporting and Porto.

Most fans in Portugal are asking themselves whether Braga can keep their unexpected run going. However, history is not on their side, and both Benfica and Porto have looked strong in the early stages of the season and they are lurking and waiting for Braga to make a mistake.

Until then, the unfashionable club from the north-east of Portugal are just enjoying the moment and dreaming of a first-ever title.

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