BeNe Clubs in Europe: Qualifying rounds week 3

Six BeNe clubs took the field in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League last week. It was a near-perfect week from the six, with only one of them failing to win.

Here is a look back at what the Dutch and Belgian clubs did in Europe, as well as the coefficient points won.

Netherlands: Smooth sailing wins, gap increasing with France

The Dutch clubs once again reigned supreme in Europe, as PSV and AZ got their European campaigns underway. The pair, alongside Twente, took to the pitch last week and immediately impressed.

After winning the Dutch Super Cup, PSV hosted Austrian side Sturm Graz in their Champions League third qualifying round tie. In what was a dominant showing from the Eindhoven club, they were already 3-0 up shortly past the half-hour point of the first half. Goals from Isaac Babadi and Luuk de Jong (twice) had them well on their way. Despite conceding just before halftime, Peter Bosz’s team regained their three-goal cushion via Ibrahim Sangaré to take a commanding lead to Austria on Tuesday. It ended 4-1, with PSV well on their way to the playoff round.

On Thursday, AZ returned to the Conference League as they travelled to Andorra to face FC Santa Coloma. Fresh off their semifinal showing earlier this year, AZ came into the tie as the overwhelming favourite. Yet, it took a goal from substitute Djordje Mihailović with 15 minutes to play for the Alkmaar side to claim the victory. In what was a poor performance from AZ’s standard, they prevailed 1-0. However, they will likely make it through with little issue as they have an excellent home record in Europe. Seeing that the Andorrans have never won a European away game, this should be a more straightforward second match for AZ.

As for Twente, they welcomed Riga FC to Enschede for their Conference League clash. After surviving a scare against Hammarby, a more decisive performance was needed from Twente. They would go on to do exactly that, as goals on each side of the interval saw them beat Riga FC 2-0. Alfons Sampsted put the hosts in front after 11 minutes, before Daan Rots added a second midway through the second half. That said, Twente can seldom rest on their laurels in the return leg: the Latvian club has won four of their last five European home games – two of which by a 2-0 scoreline. Thus, this tie is not yet over.

Overall, Netherlands had a perfect week from their three clubs, resulting in them earning 0.600 coefficient points. They are now on 1.700 points on the season and 53.000 points in the five-year ranking. Their lead over France in the latter has now increased to over 1.000 point, as the French failed to pick up any points last week (Marseille lost to Panathinaikos in Champions League qualifying). The games on Tuesday and Thursday this week could see the gap increase even more.

Belgium: Club Brugge and Gent cruise, Genk thwarted once again

The Belgian clubs were back at it in Europe, as the same three teams from the previous qualifying round – Genk, Club Brugge, and Gent – took part. The only difference is that Genk is no longer in Champions League qualifying, but rather Europa League qualifying.

It was Gent who started the week for the Belgian sides. Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s side hosted Poland’s Pogon Szczecin in the Conference League. Defensive errors from the visitors saw Gent race to a 4-0 lead by halftime, as both Gift Orban and Hugo Cuypers scores twice. The Nigerian completed his hattrick in the second half as Gent came away with a comfortable 5-0 victory. Bar the first 10 minutes of the second half, the home side was in control of the tie, and fully deserved the win. The trip to Poland is almost a mere formality.

On Thursday, Club Brugge hosted Icelandic side KA. Entering the tie as heavy favourites, Club dominated proceedings, ultimately racing to a 5-1 victory. Like Gent, Blauw-Zwart went into halftime with a 4-0 cushion. Although KA did score in the second half, it was a consolation, as the four-goal lead was restored later on. Five different players got on the scoresheet for Club as they played a solid match. The return leg in Iceland should not lead to any surprises, with Club well on their way to a meeting with Osasuna in the playoffs.

As for Genk, things could not have gotten off to a worst start in their Europa League game. After just 23 seconds in Greece, Wouter Vrancken’s side was down a goal to Olympiakos Piraeus. That led to the Smurfs chasing the game from the get go. A physical game with chances for both sides saw Olympiakos hold on to their 1-0 lead. They go to Belgium on Thursday looking to close things out and snap up a group stage place. Genk has it all to do if they are to overcome the Greek giants.

As for coefficient points, the wins from Club Brugge and Gent saw Belgium pick up another 0.400 points. The total on the season now sits at 1.200 points. Over the last five seasons, Belgium has accumulated 35.600 points, which has them in eighth spot. The next three weeks will likely determine how well Belgium will do this season from a coefficient standpoint. It is highly likely that all five teams will be playing in the playoff rounds across the three competitions. Yet, between now and 31 August, we will see how many of Genk, Club Brugge and Gent will join Antwerp and Union St. Gilloise in the group stages.

David Parkes

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