Leicester City and 1,400 traveling fans are set to begin their first ever Champions League campaign when they travel across the English Channel to Belgium to face Club Brugge on Wednesday.
It’s been five months since Leicester solidified their place in the 2015/16 Champions League and three weeks since the group stage draw, and now Leicester players and fans are ready to begin a season within a season against some solid European clubs that includes two league champions in Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen. Oh, and there’s also this minnow of a Portugese club called FC Porto we’ll meet at the King Power Stadium in two weeks time.
Brugge was finally able to knock off rivals RSC Anderlecht and Standard Leige in the Jupiler Pro League last season for its first Belgian title in 11 years. Much like the Foxes this time around, Brugge has had a rough start to their title-defending campaign by losing three of its first five league matches. It will be Brugge’s fifth time competing in the Champions League and the club has never advanced from the group stages, finishing third in each campaign (1992-93, 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2005-06).
The Belgians have strength in their defenders such as Stefano Denswil, who competed in the Champions League with Ajax in 2013-14. Center back Bjorn Engels has scored 10 goals in 50 appearances for Brugge and can serve up some damage offensively from the back. 39-year-old Timmy Simons has been a journeyman for the club in the midfield and striker Abdoulay Diaby is a force up front for Brugge with 15 goals in 30 appearances after moving from Lille to Bruges.
Leicester’s poor 4-1 performance at Liverpool in the Premier League is still fresh in the minds of fans and players alike, but manager Claudio Ranieri has plenty of options to bolster his starting XI come Wednesday.
Expect new signing Islam Slimani to make his Foxes debut up front after being unavailable for selection in Liverpool this past week. The striker has three Champions League goals in eight appearances — only a small part of his 46 goals for Sporting Lisbon over the past two seasons. Defender Danny Simpson’s knock against Liverpool could keep him out while Nampalys Mendy and Jeffrey Schlupp will be assessed prior to Wednesday’s match.
Daniel Amartey will remember Jan Breydel Stadium well after scoring a beauty for Copenhagen against Brugge in the 2014-15 Europa League. Take a look:
This is an important moment in seeing how Leicester’s depth from summer signings affects the team going into a busy stretch of games with Burnley on the horizon this upcoming weekend and a midweek visit to Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup next Wednesday.