Club Brugge and Paris Saint-Germain kick off their Champions League campaigns with a Group A battle at the Jan-Breydel-Stadion on Wednesday evening.
The Belgian giants head into the daunting group as rank outsiders for a top-two finish, while PSG will finally seek the European crown that has eluded them for so long.
Preparing for their fourth consecutive appearance in the Champions League group stages, Brugge have never once made it into the knockout rounds of Europe’s elite tournament and will need nothing short of a miracle to usurp PSG, RB Leipzig or Manchester City to one of the top two spots this time around.
Philippe Clement’s side ensured automatic qualification for the group stages by marching to their 17th national title last season – and their second in a row – but they have tried and failed eight times previously to make it out of the group, although they only missed out by two points in the 2020-21 season.
A brief stint in the Europa League followed for Brugge after a third-placed finish in Champions League Group F last term, although they were quickly dispatched by Dynamo Kiev, and they enter Wednesday’s game having made an impressive start to their Belgian title defence.
Despite a humiliating 6-1 defeat to Gent just before the international break, Brugge got back on track with a dominant 3-0 win over KV Oostende on Friday night, as Noa Lang’s strong start continued with two goals either side of Hans Vanaken’s effort.
This week’s hosts can only boast two wins from their last 12 in the Champions League, but they both came in last year’s tournament over Zenit St Petersburg, and Brugge certainly need any inspiration they can find before the visit of many fans’ favourites for the crown.
Having been blown away by Manchester City’s superiority in last year’s semi-finals, a busy summer of acquisitions for PSG has undoubtedly turned them into the force that many believe are capable of ending their European hoodoo once and for all.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side also have a Ligue 1 crown to wrestle out of Lille’s grasp, and with the reigning champions struggling for form under new management, PSG have taken full advantage with five wins from five in the early stages.
The visit of an unbeaten Clermont came at a time where PSG were missing players in the double figures through injury or late returns from international duty, but they still managed to hammer the newly-promoted side 4-0 thanks to efforts from Ander Herrera (two), Kylian Mbappe and Idrissa Gueye.
However, PSG enter Wednesday’s game after losing each of their last three in the 2020-21 Champions League – although they have not lost four in a row in the tournament since 2018 – and Les Parisiens have scored in each of their last 32 games in the group stage.
PSG and Brugge previously faced off in the 2019-20 Champions League group stages, and Les Parisiens stormed to a 5-0 win in Belgium before a narrow 1-0 success on home soil, with Mbappe and Mauro Icardi bagging three goals apiece across the two games.
Club Brugge form (all competitions):
Paris Saint-Germain form (all competitions):
We say: Club Brugge 0-3 Paris Saint-Germain
The prospect of facing Messi, Mbappe and Neymar would strike fear into the hearts of any defence, let alone a Brugge side who shipped six goals to Gent only two weeks ago.