Are Club Brugge the Champions League's Biggest Surprise Package so far This Season?

Liam Bewsher

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Are Club Brugge the Champions League's Biggest Surprise Package so far This Season?

When the Champions League kicks off, instantly, we start to think of the best teams, such as the holders and record winners Real Madrid, or some of the global superstars featuring in the competition, however, there are some teams that perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve amidst the drama the Champions League brings to the table.

A club that hasn’t perhaps been given the recognition it deserves this season is Belgian Pro League outfit, Club Brugge. Perhaps this is because our eyes are fixated on the favourites in Manchester City with Erling Haaland firing in goals left right and centre, or even the likes of PSG, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and even Barcelona following their sensational summer transfer window.

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Club Brugge’s Domination of Group B

In Group B, Club Brugge were drawn up against some tricky opponents, such as experienced campaigners in Atletico Madrid, Bayern Leverkusen and FC Porto.

Following this draw, Carl Hoefkens's side were expected to finish last in the group. Incidentally, fans of English football may recognise the 44-year-old’s name, having plied his trade as a defender at Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion between 2005 and 2009.

To many people’s surprise though, Club Brugge have managed to earn nine points from their opening three matches.

On matchday one, Brugge faced off against Bayer Leverkusen at the Jan Breydel Stadium and managed a narrow 1-0 victory, thanks to a strike from Loubadhe Abakar Sylla. Although the Bundesliga outfit are out of form so far this season, sitting 17th in their domestic league, it was vital for the Belgians to get off to the perfect start and take all three points.

Memorably, the Belgian outfit then went on to thrash FC Porto 4-0 at the Estadio do Dragao, as Ferran Jutgla, Kamal Sowah, Andreas Skov Olsen and Antonio Nusa all got on the scoresheet. This loss was Porto’s eighth heaviest in their entire clubs’ history.

Last time out, Club Brugge raised further eyebrows after defeating Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid 2-0 at home, as Sowah and Jutgla both scored on either side of half time.

Due to these results, they lead the rest of the group by six points and are one of five teams to have a perfect record in this season’s competition, alongside Napoli, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Which Players Have Impressed?

In the summer, Brugge lost some of their star players, most notably in the shapes of Charles De Ketelaere for £28.8m to AC Milan, as well as Stanley Nsoki to Hoffenheim for £10.8m. On top of this, they sold the likes of Lois Openda to Lens for £8.82m and more, bringing in a total of £50.5m.

Brugge signed the likes of Roman Yaremchuk, Dedryck Boyata from Benfica and Hertha Berlin, whilst also making the astute purchases of Ferran Jutgla from Barcelona for £4.8m, Cyle Larin on a free transfer from Besiktas. These are perhaps their best-known signings of the summer.

However, they did utilise their superb scouting system by recruiting Joel Ordonez of Independiente, Casper Nielsen from domestic rivals Union Saint-Gilloise on top of Raphael Onyedika and Bjorn Meijer, with the latter two being acquired from FC Midtjylland and Groningen. Their summer spending tallied up to £43.5m.

Some of these players have been instrumental so far this season, as the likes of Jutgla has eight goals and five assists across all competitions this season, whilst the likes of Onyedika and Nielsen were both superb in their win over Atletico.

One of the more surprise packages in their side is Sowah, who returned from a loan spell from AZ Alkmaar last season, and has since gone on to create three assists in the league, whilst bagging twice in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, the old guard has still impressed, with Hans Vanaken captaining the side, whilst ex-Sunderland and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has kept three clean sheets despite his side facing a total of 47 shots in three matches.

Notably, they are third in the Belgian Pro League, five points behind Royal Antwerp, however, there have only been ten matches played in Belgium’s top-flight, a division which they have won in four of the last five seasons. This has been an impressive start for Hoefkens, considering this is his first season as a manager having been promoted from the club’s coaching staff in May.

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