Club Brugge and Union Saint-Gilloise play for spot in Conference League quarter-finals

Union Sint-Gilloise and Club Brugge, the last two Belgian sides still in European competition, will be looking to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Conference League on Thursday evening. They face Fenerbahçe of Turkey and Molde of Norway respectively.

Union take on Fenerbahçe, led by Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi, at the Lotto Park in Anderlecht at 21:00. Union will go into the game full of confidence: the Brussels club dominates the domestic competition and beat Conference League favourites Eintracht Frankfurt in last month's play-offs.

Batshuayi, Dzeko and Bonucci

However, the Turkish side will be a formidable opponent, having won their Conference League group and currently sitting second in the Turkish Süper Lig. Their lineup also boast some big names, including Red Devil Michy Batshuayi, Edin Dzeko, Leonardo Bonucci and Dusan Tadic.

But coach Alexander Blessin is not sure how seriously the Turks are taking the Conference League. "They are two points behind Galatasaray [in the Turkish competition]. The pressure is on them win the title." As a result, Fenerbahçe may decide to rest key players for the home competition, Blessin argues. Union's chances could depend on it.

Uncertain Club Brugge

Earlier in the evening, at 18:45, Club Brugge host Norwegian side Molde. Unlike Union, Club Brugge did not have to play in the Conference League play-offs because the West Flemings won their group in the group stage. But Club Brugge are far less confident, having lost to Union in the semi-finals of the Belgian Cup just last week.

Still, Molde are far less impressive opponents. The team finished fifth in the Norwegian Eliteserien last season and have been forced to prepare for the Conference League with friendlies, as the Norwegian football season only starts on 1 April. And Molde's squad is valued at just one-fifth of Club Brugge's.

"We have a chance to do something nice on the European stage and I think we can do it"

"After the disappointment of the cup elimination, this is a new start," said Club Brugge midfielder Casper Nielsen before the match. "We have a chance to do something nice on the European stage and I think we can do it."

Other Belgians in Europe

A number of individual Belgians are also still playing in Europe. Youri Tielemans will lead Aston Villa in a Conference League clash with Ajax. In the Europa League, Romelu Lukaku plays Brighton & Hove Albion with AS Roma, while Charles De Ketelaere takes on Sporting CP with Atalanta.

All return fixtures are scheduled for next Thursday, 14 March.


Union's Dennis Eckert Ayensa celebrates after scoring against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Conference League. © BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ

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