November 18, 2017

Previewing Hoffenheim’s Europa League Group

After the disappointment of their Champions League playoff defeat against Liverpool, Hoffenheim now set out for the Europa League group stages, which begin this week. The club from Sinsheim are in Group C and set to face Ludogorets, Braga, and Istanbul Başakşehir with the hopes of reaching the knockout rounds. This preview will look at each of Hoffenheim’s opponents in these upcoming 6 matches.

Sporting Braga

Not considered to be one of the big clubs of Portugal like Porto, Benfica, and Sporting Club de Portugal. Braga tend to fall within the next tier of Portuguese sides, but should not be taken lightly, as their Pot 1 status in the draw confirms. They have never won the Domestic league, finishing as runners-up once in their history, but do have 3 domestic cups to their name, with the last being the Taça de Portugal in 2016.

How did they get here?

Braga entered in the 3rd Qualifying Round and needed extra time in the 2nd leg to get past AIK of Sweden. In the Playoff round they drew Icelandic Champions FH, where they won both legs to advance 5-3 on aggregate.

Stadium

It’s iconic: the Estadio de Municipal de Braga. One look at their stadium and it’s easy to see why it’s earned the nickname of “The Quarry,” Built in preparation for Portugal hosting the 2004 Euros, it was completed one year prior and has received multiple awards for its design.

“The Quarry” has seen its fair share of big matches, including matches from the 2004 Euros.

European History

Braga are regular participants in Europe with this being their third consecutive trip to the Europa League group stages. In the 2010-11 season, they advanced all the way to the final of this Competition, where they lost 1-0 to fellow Portuguese side Porto, on a goal by Radamel Falcao just before half-time.

Notable Players

For many, none. In similar fashion to the Bundesliga, Liga NOS is known for scouting and developing talent rather than buying established players, and Braga is no different. Because of the common language, many players come from Brazil. In their last league match against Porto, four starters are listed as Brazilian according to Transfermarkt.co.uk and another one has dual Brazilian Portuguese citizenship.

What Formation do they play? Who should I watch for? 

According to Transfermarkt, in most of their games this season, Braga have come out in a 4-2-2-2 formation with 2 holding midfielders shielding the defensive line. Their other formation they have played this season is a 4-3-3 against FH. Offensively, Portuguese striker Paulinho paces the attack. The 24-year-old already has four goals this season, three of which have come in this competition. Another player to keep an eye on is defender Raul Silva. The Brazilian center back has scored twice in four Europa League matches this season.

When do they play Hoffenheim?

The Portuguese side will travel to Sinsheim for Matchday 1 on September 14, and the reverse fixture is on Matchday 5 on November 23.

Ludogorets Razgrad

Ludogorets have become the new dominant force in Bulgarian football, winning the last six league championships in a row. Last season they lost only 3 matches in the league and conceded 28 goals in 36 matches. With this streak, the Eagles have been able to improve and become fairly competitive in European Competitions.

How did they get here?

Ludogorets got started in the second round of the Champions League, advancing past Zalgiris of Lithuania 5-3. They then met Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel. After losing the first leg 2-0 in Israel, Ludogorets came back to Bulgaria and found themselves up 3-0 and looking to advance. However, Hapoel were able to get a vital away goal and advance. Ludogorets then moved into the Europa League playoff round where they faced another Lithuanian side in Sudava. A 2-0 win at home allowed the side to play a more patient away leg, earning a 0-0 draw.

Stadium

The club has recently expanded their Ludogorets Arena, which now allows them to host European matches at their home. It seats 9,000 people, but is rarely at capacity during league matches. Prior to this the club had to play their matches at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, a journey of roughly 350 kilometers from their home.

The East stand of Ludogorets Arena was updated in August and expanded capacity to 9,000.

European History 

With these six championships, Ludogorets has earned much experience in recent years. Last season, the Bulgarians qualified for the Champions League group stages. Despite not winning any of their six matches, they drew home matches against Basel and PSG and earned another point in Switzerland to finish in 3rd in their group and move into the Europa League knockouts. However, Copenhagen secured a vital 2-1 away win. The Bulgarians were unable to mount a comeback in Denmark and were eliminated. In the only other time the side has been in the Europa League group stages, the Eagles breezed through their Group in first place, dropping just two points along the way. The were knocked out in the round of 16 by Valencia, a run that remains their furthest ever in European competition.

Notable Players 

One name: Cosmin Moti. In the 2014 Champions League Playoff Round, Ludogorets were facing Romanian side Steaua Bucharest. in the 2nd leg at home, Ludogorets got a late goal to force the match into extra time. However, in the 119th minute, goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov picked up a second yellow and was sent off. Moti, normally a defender, donned the goalkeeper jersey and put in an incredible performance. Not only did he scored on his penalty attempt, but he also saved two Steaua penalties to send the Eagles into the group stages.

What Formation do they play? Who should I watch for? 

Ludogorets play primarily in a 4-2-3-1 formation. However they have also used a 4-3-3 formation in the early rounds of this competition. Offensively, the Bulgarian side features a fairly balanced attack. Through 15 matches so far this season, three different players lead the way with four goals: attacking midfielder Wanderson, winger Vura, and center forward Claudiu Keseru. Keseru has been particularly impressive, scoring a brace and assisting on another in the clubs 2nd leg Champions League match against Zalgiris, leading the side to a 4-1 victory.

When do they play Hoffenheim?

The Eagles will host Hoffenheim in Matchday 2 on September 28. They will make the journey to Germany to close out group play on December 7.

İstanbul Başakşehir

A younger club in Turkish football, this Istanbul side has only recently become a powerful side. Last year, they spent heavily on the roster and for much of the first half of the season sat at the top of the table. However, a loss to Fenerbahce gave Besiktas the chance to jump into first, a lead they didn’t relinquish. Başakşehir finished in second place, their highest finish in club history. Despite their impressive roster and their second place league finish last year. However, due to their lack of pedigree in the European competition

How did they get here?

Başakşehir entered the Champions League 3rd qualifying round, facing Belgian side Club Brugge, after earning a 3-3 draw away, the Turkish side advanced with a 2-0 home win. Moving on the club drew Spanish side Sevilla, and were unable to overcome a home loss in the first leg, losing the tie 4-3.

Stadium

Başakşehir now play their matches in Fatih Terim Stadium, which was opened in 2014. It was named after the Turkish manager Fatih Terim, who has managed the national team on three separate occasions. The stadium holds 17,800 fans and sits in the Başakşehir neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul.

Fatih Terim guided the Turkish side to the 1996 Euros, the first time in history that the nation reached the Continental tournament.

European History

Başakşehir have made little impact in European competitions, They have also competed in four matches prior to this year. Their win against Club Brugge marked the first victory for the club.

Notable Players 

This will be a side that has the most players that followers of the German football will recognize. Mevlüt Erdinc just joined the club this summer after spending last season on loan with Hannover 96, where he made 13 appearances and assisted once. Former Hamburg and Werder Bremen winger Eljero Elia is also with Başakşehir. He signed in the summer from Dutch Champions Feyenoord Rotterdam. Tunay Torun also joined the club this summer. The Hamburg native got his professional start in Germany for his hometown club before moving on to Hertha Berlin, and later Stuttgart.

What Formation do they play? Who should I watch for?

Manager Abdullah Avci seems to favor a couple different formations so far this season. Başakşehir have primarily played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, utilizing the powerful Emmanuel Adebayor as the lone striker up top. But there have been some matches where the sides shifts into a 4-2-2-2 with a pair of holding midfielders, however that has only been in league matches so far. As mentioned earlier Elia has already made an impact for the club he has four goals in his eight matches so far, including scoring a goal in both legs of the Sevilla tie. Adebayor is also a player that you can’t ignore, as the former Real Madrid player has a pair of goals and assisted twice in the young season.

When do they play Hoffenheim?

Hoffenheim will host Başakşehir in Matchday 3 on October 19. The sides will play again in Istanbul two weeks later on Matchday 4.

The following two tabs change content below.

Andrew Smith

Born in Indiana, Andrew is a 27-year-old Social Studies teacher who has traveled to Germany on multiple occasions. He enjoys learning more of the tactical side of the game and can be followed on Twitter at andsmith_46.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply