Focus on Club Brugge


Manchester United will face a two-legged play-off against Club Brugge in order to determine which side will reach the Champions League group stages.

United, at this stage after finishing fourth in the Barclays Premier League last term, face a side they have never come up against before.

The first leg will take place on Tuesday 18 August at Old Trafford, with the return leg eight days later at the Jan Breydel Stadium, with a capacity of just under 30,000.

Despite finishing their regular season in first place, they lost out on the Championship to Gent in the play-off phase, meaning they too are in this play-off round after overcoming Greek side Panathinaikos 4-2 on aggregate in the previous round.

Managed by Michel Preud’homme, a former Belgian international, they boast 13 league titles to their name, second only to rivals Anderlecht, and are the only side from Belgium to reach a European Cup final, losing to Liverpool in 1978, which also came two years after losing to the same opponent in the UEFA Cup final.

Founded in 1891, their rich history also sees them hold the record for the number of consecutive participants in the UEFA Cup with 16, the record number of Belgian Cups with 11 and the record number of Belgian Supercups with 13.

Key players to look out for include Brazilian midfielder Claudemir, recently signed from FC Copenhagen, where he featured in over 120 games for the Danish side, including regular Champions League experience.

Oscar Duarte is a 26-year-old defender with 17 Costa Rican caps to his name, including last year’s World Cup where the minnows reached the quarter-finals, only to be knocked out on penalties to Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side, as well as nearly 100 appearances for Club Brugge in less than three years.

Jose Izquierdo and Tom De Sutter are two strikers who average a goal every three games or less with the Belgian side, with Stefano Denswil a left-footed centre-halve who was once linked with United, but signed from Ajax back in January.

Louis van Gaal will know not to underestimate Club Brugge or take them lightly, and he has two League games to prepare for before European football returns to the Theatre of Dreams, as the Dutchman aims to bring back Champions League nights back to Old Trafford.

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