Club Brugge couldn’t win the first leg in Georgia despite leading 2:0 and 3:2, but the Belgian club remain the favourites to go through even after the 3:3 draw. Zestafoni took good use of home field advantage to earn a hard-fought draw in the first leg, but they clearly face a mountain to climb in return leg.
Brugge survived Georgia
Not long ago, Club Brugge were the most dominant force in Belgian football, but the Blue and Blacks have struggled to match sides like Anderlecht, Standard Liege and even Genk during the past few years. However, the club chiefs are determined to get the club back where they belong, and they look to be on the right track. The heavy summer recruitment and the arrival of Almeback, Hogli, Refaelov, Zimling, Vazquez, Stenman and Vlemincx has helped reinforce the squad from last season, so nobody was surprised to see Club Brugge in great form at the start of new season. The Belgian giants easily eliminated Azeri side Qarabaq before playing out an entertaining 3:3 draw against Zestafoni, which has got to be considered a good result considering the awful state of the pitch in Georgia. Brugge are now set to return to their Jan Breydel Stadium, where they have scored at least three goals in four of last five games.
Joseph Akpala will continue to deputize for Bjorn Vlemincx, while Lior Refaelov returns from domestic suspension.
Zestafoni struggle on the travels
The Georgian champions started their European campaign with a convincing home win over Moldovan side Dacia, but the 2:0 defeat in the return leg almost saw them get eliminated early on. Zestafoni were later eliminated by Sturm, but then entered the Europa League play-off draw, where they were paired against Club Brugge. The Georgian side did their best to take advantage of the poor state of the pitch, which clearly gave them an advantage over their opponents, and they somehow managed to avoid defeat despite being two goals down at half-time. Coach Gia Geguchadze had resigned just before the first leg, with that act adding fuel to speculations that some odd things were happening in and around the club. With important midfielder Murtaz Daushvili dropped to the reserves for his poor form, Zestafoni clearly face an uphill task in Belgium, especially as they largely struggle on the travels.
Coach Chiabrishvili is expected to field the same side that started the game in Georgia.
Club Brugge proved their technical superiority even at the poor playing surface in Georgia, so there is no doubt that the Belgian team will fare much better in the return leg. The hosts will be looking to put the tie beyond doubt early on and with Zestafoni largely struggling on the travels, Club Brugge are expected to record a comfortable win.
Our prediction: Club Brugge with -1 European handicap
Odds: 2.05 (21/20)
Bookmaker: Stan James