Who Is Club Brugge? Profiling AEK's Europa League Opponents
AEK take on Club Brugge for a place in the Europa League Group Stage. AGONAsport takes a look at the Belgian side and what Kitrinomavri supporters can expect over the two legs.
The draw for the Europa League Playoffs brought AEK a side they are capable of beating in Club Brugge from Belgium. That said, the Belgian club are a decent team who will be no pushovers and possess a few very exciting young players. And the way things stand, it is probably safe to say that Brugge begin this two-legged affair as favorites.
Known primarily as a ‘selling club’, Brugge traditionally put their faith in young talent, develop them and then move them on to bigger clubs. This hasn’t stopped them from being the second most successful Belgian club, behind only Anderlecht in the trophies they have won. They finished second last behind Anderlecht and will be looking to reclaim the Belgian Pro League title in the new season.
There is change in the dugout with Croat Ivan Leko replacing Michel Preud’homme, who was at the helm for four seasons in which he won three championships including the league back in the 2015/16 campaign. Also of note is the departure of influential Colombian winger, Jose Izquierdo who was sold to Brighton as well as Brazilian midfielder who was sold to Saudi outfit Al Ahli.
Regardless, the squad seems relatively deep and with a couple new talents should be more than capable of coping domestically and in Europe. AEK will feel they can get past this side, but they will have their hands full and need to be at their best in order to progress.
Stadium: Jan Breydel Stadium (Capacity: 29,042)
Titles: 14 Belgian Pro League Titles, 11 Belgian Cups, 14 Belgian Supercups
Manager: Ivan Leko
The 39-year-old Croat boss will be a familiar to some Greek football fans as he spent a season at PAOK as an assistant coach two years ago. A former Club Brugge player, he was appointed manager earlier this summer after coaching Sint-Truiden last season. This is his first job at a big club and it remains to be seen how he handles the pressure and whether he can lead Brugge back to the top of the Belgian football pyramid.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jeremy Perbet, a veteran French striker has been brought in from Gent. At 32, he is in the latter stages of his career, however he is a proven goalscorer and is vastly experienced with time spent in Belgium, France, Spain, and Turkey. The ageless Timothy Simons is incredibly still doing a job at 40 years old as a defensive midfielder. Jelle Vossen is the main man up front and had 16 goals last season, however the belief is he may be usurped by the prodigious talent of Emanuel Bonaventure Denis. The 19-year-old Nigerian striker has burst onto the scene and has five goals in his first five appearances this season both at home and in Europe. Israeli midfielder and club co-captain Lior Rafaelov provides creativity in midfield and the flanks and brings goals and assists with his game.
LAST SEASON RECAP
Brugge had a disappointing campaign last year, finishing seven points behind rivals Anderlecht in the title race. It was worse in the Belgian Cup as the team crashed out in the Round of 16. However, worst of all was the team’s Champions’ League performance. In the Group Stage, Brugge managed to lose all six of their matches in a group that contained Leicester, Porto, and Copenhagen. If that wasn’t bad enough, the team managed a paltry two goals over their European campaign while conceding 14.
THIS YEAR IN EUROPE
This season began in disappointing fashion for new manager Leko. He oversaw a 5-3 aggregate defeat against Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Champions’ League meaning that Club Brugge can only continue in Europe through the Europa League.
PRIOR HISTORY VERSUS GREEK TEAMS
The Belgians have a positive record against Greek teams in Europe. Against Panathinaikos in particular, the Belgians are perfect having defeated the Prasini on four separate occasions in both the Europa League and Champions’ League (or their predecessor tournaments) in 1977, 1988, 1995, and 2015. They also played PAOK in the 2010/11 Europa League Group Stage, drawing twice against the Greek team.