FEATURE | BeNe in Europe – Matchday 4 Review: Netherlands lose ground, Club Brugge secure progression

The fourth matchday of the group stage for the UEFA club competitions took place last week, with the Belgian and Dutch clubs continuing to fight for coefficient points for their country.

Here is a look at what went down and what it means from a coefficient point of view…

Dutch clubs struggle, only PSV prevail

It was not the best week for the Netherlands in Europe, as their four representatives went 1-1-2. The good thing is that all teams are still in a decent position in their respective groups, with the likelihood of the four sides remaining in Europe past November high.

Ajax got the ball rolling on Wednesday, and once again suffered defeat. Facing Napoli away, they were hoping to erase the memories of the 6-1 humiliation in the home leg, but it took less than five minutes for the Italians to go in front. While Ajax only lost 4-2 in the end, there is little hope for the Dutch champions in Group A now. They’re third and are very likely to hold on to that spot though, which will give them a spot in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Things went better in the Europa League for PSV, who ran rampant versus FC Zürich once more. This time, the result was 5-0 in Ruud van Nistelrooy’s team’s favour. The win means that PSV stay second in their group, and have assured themselves of European football in early 2023; whether that will be in the Europa League or Europa Conference League is still to be determined.

Feyenoord once again drew 2-2 with FC Midtjylland in their Europa League clash, and their group is still wide open. Going down 1-0 after 15 minutes at home, Arne Slot’s men equalized at the half-hour mark before taking the lead shortly after half-time, but they were not able to hold on as the Danes equalized just before the hour. Both teams, alongside Lazio and Sturm Graz, are on five points with two games left to play. Feyenoord lead the group on goal difference, and it would be huge for them and the country should they hold on.

For the first time in the group stages, AZ failed to win a match. After victories on the spin in the competition (including qualifying), they were shocked 1-0 away to the Cypriot champions Apollon Limassol. Despite outshooting the hosts 16-6, the Pot 1 team was unable to find the back of the net in the 90 minutes. They still are atop of Group E, though Dnipro-1 have closed the gap with a pair of matches left for each side.

With these results, the Netherlands gained 0.600 coefficient points. They are still sixth in the five-year coefficient ranking, looking seemingly comfortable there. No bonus points were won by any of the four clubs, which could occur on the next matchday, with both PSV and AZ able to clinch some then.

As for rivals Portugal, the Iberian country had a 1-2-1 record among their four teams – that yielded 0.666 points – and at least one will be enjoying knockout football as Braga cannot finish last in their Europa League group. The Portuguese are still 2.284 points behind the Netherlands in the five-year ranking but that could easily be wiped out if they can get at least two teams in the Champions League last 16. The bonus points won there would be monumental in their push to get past the Dutch.

Right above the Netherlands, France had a disappointing week with a 2-1-3 record. While they did win 0.833 match points, it was less than hoped for. The good news for them is that Rennes will finish in the top two of their Europa League group, winning their country at least 0.333 in bonus points; that will rise to 0.833 should they top their section. The Dutch are 2.500 points behind, with hopes of pipping the French for fifth diminishing more and more.

No wins for Belgian clubs, but Club Brugge secure last-16 spot

It was the worst week for Belgium’s four remaining clubs in Europe since the group stages commenced, with none of them managing to claim a win. Yet it was not all bad news as two teams booked knockout round berths with the other two still in the running to do the same.

Club Brugge completed what many would have imagined unthinkable on Wednesday. In keeping a fourth clean sheet in as many games, drawing 0-0 with Atletico Madrid, Carl Hoefkens’ side have guaranteed themselves a Champions League knockout berth for the very first time. They are just the third Belgian side to get past this round of the competition, after Anderlecht in 2000/01 and Gent in 2015/16.

Union St. Gilloise’s incredible European campaign also continued in thrilling fashion, as they played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Sporting Braga. They were made to work in Leuven, coming from a goal down and then two goals down to take a well-deserved point back to the capital. While they are not guaranteed to feature in the Europa League knockouts, they know that they cannot finish last, meaning at the very least a Conference League appearance is available for them.

Speaking of the Europa Conference League, things did not go well for Gent. Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s charges found themselves down 3-0 at home to Sweden’s Djurgården at half-time. The hosts scored a fourth goal just a minute into the second half, holding on for a 4-2 success. Since Molde won the other match in the group, De Buffalo’s are on the outside looking in. They are three points behind the Norwegians and will need to get a win at Shamrock Rovers next time out.

Anderlecht left it too late in London against West Ham in the other Conference League tie. The Hammers’ two first-half goals were enough as they held on for a 2-1 victory. Silkeborg smashed FCSB in the other game, leaving Anderlecht in third with two rounds left. Only two points separate them and the Danish club, who they meet on matchday six.

All in all, Belgium’s 0-2-2 record on the week gave them 0.400 coefficient points. That was not all, however. Since Club Brugge reached the Champions League last 16, that tacks on another 1.000 in bonus points. Union St. Gilloise (up to 1.000 in bonuses), Gent and Anderlecht (0.200 each) can still bring in more for the Belgian coefficient.

Belgium remain ninth in the five-year coefficient rankings, with 7.400 earned this season. They are on Scotland’s shoulder now, as 0.400 separates the two. The Scots are in serious danger of losing all three of their clubs at the end of the group stages, meaning Belgium will almost surely pass them for eighth place.

Austria (0.400 points gained) and Serbia (0.500) would have wanted better, as hopes of catching Belgium look slimmer for both. The two countries are now 2.400 and 4.625 points behind their Belgian competitors, respectively. RB Salzburg, Sturm Graz and Austria Wien could still bring in 2.200 in bonuses for Austria; Partizan and Crvena Zvezda can get 1.750 at most for Serbia, but that looks unlikely.

David Parkes

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