Another match won by the home team, but this time it was the underdog coming through in front of their home crowd. Club Brugge defeated Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 last Thursday to give themselves a leg up in their Europa League Round of 32 matchup. Now, with the action shifting the Austria, the former favorite looks to return the favor and find a way to make it to the Round of 16 for the second consecutive season.
The match kicks off from Red Bull Arena in Salzburg on Thursday, 21 February at 5:55pm GMT (12:55pm EST).
What Happened in Leg 1
This match got the “best of the rest” treatment when we previewed Leg 1, though it probably should have received a bit more attention. Red Bull Salzburg entered Leg 1 favored to advance by a 2-to-1 margin, but we covered individual matches with bigger favorites. However, Salzburg entered the match tied with Arsenal as the clubs with the sixth-best odds to win the entire tournament, so I regret not looking at this match a little closer, especially after the results.
Like the last match we previewed, the home club came from behind to win the match 2-1. But unlike Viktoria Plzen in that matchup, Club Brugge was not favored heading into the match, though that has shifted a bit since (more on this in a moment).
Zlatko Junuzović opened scoring the Red Bull, sending home a goal in the 17th minute and proving why they opened as the favorite. They managed to hold that lead through halftime and the first third of the second half before Stefano Denswil equalized in the 64th minute, a goal that came not long after his teammate Emmanuel Bonaventure had hit the post. Not content with the draw, Club Brugge again found net in the 81st minute on a header by Wesley, and then held on for 15 more minutes to leave with the victory.
The clubs were pretty well matched throughout, ending about equal in shots, possession, and passing, with only the final score indicating who was a bit more dominant for brief moments in the match.
What the Experts are Saying
Club Brugge’s victory swung them to favored status, albeit barely, with the Belgians now favored to advance in 52% of FiveThirtyEight simulations. It increased their odds of winning the entire tournament, from less than 1% to… 1%. Still, that 1% is better than 13 of the remaining clubs, so that’s better than nothing.
Nevertheless, Red Bull Salzburg is favored in this individual match, with a win in 61% of simulations. That helps to explain the toss-up aspect of the overall matchup, with Salzburg only needing to win 1-0 (or better) to advance on aggregate.
What We’re Thinking
Red Bull Salzburg looks like every bit of the favorite they were entering Leg 1: they’re undefeated in their domestic league, have yet to lose at home all year, and blitzed their Europa League group with 18 points. Yet… they lost in Leg 1 and that means something.
That said, Club Brugge may have been buoyed by the home crowd last week #InBruges, so they obviously won’t have that advantage again. They’ve also been less than stellar back in their domestic league, where they currently trail Genk by eight points. It’s looking like Red Bull Salzburg will find a place in the Round of 16, with definite chances to find themselves back in the semi-final like last season.
Until next time…