As Newcastle prepare to travel to Club Brugge, Michael Cox uses the Europa League Stats Zone – a FREE version of FourFourTwo's award-winning Opta-powered app, brought to you by Western Union – to assess the Belgians' star men...
Newcastle’s 1-0 victory over Club Brugge a fortnight ago was more comfortable than the scoreline would suggest – Gabriel Obertan’s goal arrived just after half-time, but always looked set to be the winner.
Since then, Brugge have sacked manager Georges Leekens – an unsurprising move given a dramatic decline in results. The 2012/13 league campaign started well for Brugge – they won six and drew two of their opening eight league matches, but then nosedived alarmingly, with back-to-back draws followed by four straight defeats. 21 years after he first parted company with Brugge, Leekens is now looking for his 21st managerial post, and reserve team coach Philippe Clement will take charge for the Newcastle game.
As such, it’s difficult to predict how Brugge will play against Newcastle – but we can still pinpoint their most talented individuals.
Clement played over 250 games for Brugges between 1999 and 2009
The primary goalscoring threat is Colombian Carlos Bacca, who was recently recalled to his national side after an excellent goalscoring run at club level, which he continued by netting against Cameroon. He’s now scored twice in two starts – two years apart – although he’ll have difficulty displacing Falcao as first-choice striker.
For Brugge, he’s more frequently involved during home matches, although likes receiving long, direct passes into the channels before shooting readily – in Brugge’s only previous home Europa League match this season, the 2-0 win over Maritimo, Bacca had no fewer than eight shots. As demonstrated below, he enjoys receiving the ball in inside-left positions before trying to curl the ball into the far corner, although his goal actually came with a strike from the opposite side.
Spaniard Victor Vazquez offers an attacking threat from midfield. He grew up at Barcelona’s academy at La Masia, and was part of the famous youth side that included Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique – you can see him with his arm around Messi in this photo. Although he only played three games for Barcelona, he completed a group stage game in Pep Guardiola’s debut season in 2008/09, and can therefore claim – somewhat tenuously – to be a European Cup winner. He’s a more ambitious passer than you might expect for a Barcelona player, and also strays to the flanks to attempt plenty of crosses.
Jonathan Blondel is another with experience at more renowned clubs – after a short trial at Manchester United, he joined Tottenham Hotspur a decade ago, and was briefly set to replace the likes of Tim Sherwood, Gustavo Poyet and Steffan Freund in midfield – but saw little action under Glenn Hoddle.
Blondel has a decent left foot, and generally plays towards that side of the pitch, but his most notable contribution to Brugge’s Europa League campaign has been his tackling. Against Maritimo, for example, he attempted eight tackles – of which six were successful.
That win over the Portuguese side was also notable for the lack of success of Brugge’s attempted dribbles – they were usually dispossessed, generally after attempted runs down the right.Indeed, the pattern of their created chances suggests that short built-up play flows down the right, while longer balls are hit down the left, particularly for Bacca.
Stats Zone is a free-download app from FourFourTwo and Opta, updated LIVE in-play. The Europa League Stats Zone is brought to you in association with Western Union's PASS scheme, which turns every completed Europa League pass into a day's education for young people around the world.
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