CLUB Brugge will be hoping for a repeat of their first-half Bernabeu heroics today when they welcome another European heavyweight Paris Saint-Germain to the Jan Breydelstadion.
The Belgian runners-up led 2-0 at the break against 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid last month and, while the Spanish giants were ultimately able to hit back, Brugge still picked up a point which leaves them second to only PSG in Group A.
Results against Real Madrid have been the highlights of both these sides’ seasons so far, with Brugge coming so close to a famous victory at the Bernabeu and PSG having assumed early control of Group A with a 3-0 victory over Los Blancos at the Parc des Princes.
Thomas Tuchel’s side followed that up with a narrow 1-0 triumph over Galatasaray on matchday two as Mauro Icardi’s first goal for the club made it two wins from two, already putting them four points clear at the top of the pool.
Another victory tonight could increase that gap to seven points should the other result end in a draw, putting the French champions on course for yet another appearance in the knockout rounds.
PSG’s failures in the latter stages of this competition – most notably crashing out in the last 16 for each of the past three seasons – are well-documented, but the convincing win over Madrid on matchday one was certainly a statement of intent which would have been heard around Europe.
Le Parisiens have not been quite as dominant so far domestically as they have been in recent years, losing two of their opening 10 games, although they still boast a five-point lead at the top courtesy of victories in their other eight outings, most recently a 4-1 win at Nice last Friday night.
The fact that those results have come while PSG have been battling injuries and suspensions to their three main attackers, speaks volumes as to the depth in their squad, although Brugge will not be daunted by the test following their achievements at the Bernabeu.
Philippe Clement’s side ultimately fell short of the victory following Emmanuel Bonaventure’s unorthodox first-half brace, but they did show that they can hurt one of Europe’s top teams and they will take that confidence into this match.
It is a confidence helped by a 17-game unbeaten streak across all competitions this season, including a Champions League qualifying campaign during which they saw off Dynamo Kiev and LASK Linz over two legs.
Indeed, Brugge are now 10 Champions League games unbeaten including those qualifiers, while in the competition proper you have to go back to matchday two last season for their last defeat – a run of six games.
Five of those games, including both so far this season, have ended all square, though, while stretching even further back Brugge have only won three of their last 20 outings in the Champions League proper.
Like PSG, today’s hosts come into this match off the back of a win and top of the table, with last Friday night’s victory over Royal Excel Mouscron leaving them three points clear with a game in hand over second-placed Standard Liege.
Neymar’s Champions League ban – given to him for comments after their exit at the hands of Manchester United last season – has been served, but the Brazilian is now sidelined with a thigh injury.
Brugge have an exceptional defensive record domestically and were impressive against Real Madrid last time out, but the threat of PSG – particularly with Cavani and Mbappe back – is likely to prove too much for them. – SportsMole