We’re halfway through the 2022/23 Champions League group stage and there have been some crazy storylines to follow.
Barcelona and Juventus are threatened with elimination, while Chelsea and Liverpool are working hard, but nothing is more surprising than the three-for-three start enjoyed by Belgian side Club Brugge.
Drawn in Group B alongside Bayer Leverkusen, Porto and Atletico Madrid, Brugge were most fans’ favorites to finish bottom of the group, but not only have they won all three games so far. present, but they haven’t even conceded a goal yet.
So who is behind all this?
The star of the show so far has been Spain striker Ferran Jutgla, whose name may ring a bell because of his nine appearances for Barcelona last season. He even scored on his first La Liga start, opening the scoring in a 3-2 win over Elche in December 2021.
The 23-year-old striker moved to Brugge in the summer for a €5million fee, with Barcelona also securing a 10% sell clause. At the time of writing, he sits atop the team’s goalscoring charts and has managed both a goal and an assist against Porto and Atletico.
A natural goalscorer with an immense work rate and a love for drifting, Jutgla has already justified Brugge’s spending and Barcelona will blame themselves for not securing a bigger sell clause.
Yeah, this Simon Mignolet.
Laughing at Liverpool in 2019, Mignolet is just one of two goalkeepers to not concede a goal so far in the Champions League – the other being Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer. Lots of company to keep.
Now 34, Mignolet is playing some of the best football of his career this season and certainly played his part in Brugge’s early success.
Brought back to Europe by Leicester City in 2018, Ghanaian winger Kamal Sowah recorded his best performances for the Champions League.
In 31 appearances for Brugge, the 22-year-old has scored just two goals, and both have come in this season’s European race as he beat Porto and Atletico.
The tricky winger is widely believed to be on the cusp of a proper breakout season after initially struggling to find his feet in Belgium, so Sowah is definitely one to watch going forward.
One of the best stars outside Europe’s major leagues, veteran midfielder Hans Vanaken continues to lead by example at the heart of everything Brugge do.
The 30-year-old, who was wanted by West Ham this summer, has an amazing ability to find the back of the net from position. He averages just under a goal every three games, which is exceptional for a midfielder.
Vanaken signed a new five-year contract in August 2022 and now looks set to end his career at Brugge.
It took Andreas Skov Olsen a bit longer than expected to start to shine, but the 22-year-old’s transfer in January from Bologna to Brugge seems to have been the catalyst to get him fired again.
Hailing from the famed Nordsjaelland academy, Danish international Skov Olsen is the prototype of the modern winger: tall, agile and dangerous when passing through on goal. During his teenage years he was seen as a future star, but three uncomfortable years with Bologna saw the hype train slow down.
Now that he’s strutting around at Brugge, it’s only a matter of time before Skov Olsen finds himself on the books of another top European side.
Defensive midfielder Raphael Onyedika is flying under the radar with his excellent performances.
Brought back from Midtjylland in the summer, Onyedika is a traditional midfield destroyer. The Nigerian thrives on pressing opponents high up the pitch and overpowering them with brute force, collecting the ball before unloading it on his creative teammates.
The 21-year-old is now flirting with a breakthrough in the Nigerian national team, and if he keeps playing like this, it won’t be long before he becomes a permanent player.
Brugge have a rich history of producing young defenders and the next man to steal the show is 19-year-old Ivorian Abakar Sylla.
Reports suggest Brugge paid just £200,000 to sign Sylla in 2021, having done nothing but watch highlight videos of the young centre-back, who is in only his second year in Europe but plays with an unreal level of maturity. Looks like he’s been playing Champions League football for years, not weeks.
He is comfortable on the ball and enjoys physical challenges, which will attract interest from top European players in the very near future.