By John Baete
Club Brugge KV could be playing for the right to accompany FC Barcelona into the UEFA Champions League second group stage when the Catalans visit the Jan Breydelstadion on Tuesday night.
The Belgian team will make sure of second place in Group H if they win and Galatasaray SK fail to beat FC Lokomotiv Moskva in Istanbul. It is a position they have consolidated by taking four points off the Turkish side in the last two Matchdays.
Shift in momentum
Last week's 3-1 home success not only moved them a point above Galatasaray, it also raised confidence levels. Fair to say that coach Trond Sollied's decision to move, decisively, from a 5-3-2 formation to a more attacking 4-3-3 half an hour into that game marked an important shift in momentum in the group. "It was a key result as far as qualification is concerned," said Sollied.
Brugge hopes of following up that win received a boost when Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal announced a squad containing six reserve-team players. Sollied claimed that "even without their best players, Barça are better than every club in Belgium".
Missing from action
But there is no escaping the fact that the real star names are those on the absentee list: Frank de Boer, Roberto Bonano, Philip Cocu, Luis Enrique, Xavi Hernández, Gaizka Mendieta, Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola rested; Patrik Andersson, Philippe Christanval, Thiago Motta, Marc Overmars and Michael Reiziger injured. Youngsters Dani Tortolero, Oleguer Presas, Andrés Iniesta, David Sánchez, Fernando Macebo and Sergio García deputise.
Sollied did have some sympathy for Galatasaray, saying: "If I had tired and injured players I would do the same, but I understand why Galatasaray are not happy." For his part, Van Gaal said "it would depend on the circumstances" whether he chose to rest players for the Galatasaray match in a fortnight. Yet his opposite number added: "It makes me laugh when people say Barcelona won't field a good team."
Barça in control
Barcelona, the runaway group leaders, were too good for Brugge on Matchday One at Camp Nou. However, Sollied insisted his players had learned the lesson of that 3-2 defeat - "We will see how we have grown since then" - and highlighted "a golden opportunity to go through". "We had too much respect for them in Barcelona - that is no longer the case," he said.
Tried and tested
Sollied has no new injuries, although Rune Lange and Serhiy Serebrennikov are still sidelined, while Peruvian forward Andrés Mendoza serves a club suspension. So it will be a tried-and-tested unit that takes on a Barcelona team bearing little resemblance to the one that thrashed Deportivo Alavés 6-1 on Saturday.
Brugge on the brink
Brugge themselves enjoyed a free weekend as their match against RSC Anderlecht was postponed due to a European Union meeting in Brussels. Now they are on the verge of negotiating their own position in the continent's footballing hierarchy.
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