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Europa Conference League | Quarter-Finals | 2nd Leg
Apr 18, 2024 at 8pm UK
Stadio Toumbas
Club Brugge

0 - 2

Preview: PAOK vs. Club Brugge - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa Conference League clash between PAOK and Club Brugge, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

PAOK and Club Brugge will conclude their battle for a Europa Conference League semi-final place on Thursday, when they meet in the second leg of their final-eight tie in Greece.

The visitors travel with a slender lead to defend, having scraped a 1-0 win on Belgian soil last week.

Match preview

PAOK coach Razvan Lucescu before the match on March 14, 2024© Reuters

PAOK will return to Thessaloniki on Thursday with the aim of overturning their Europa Conference League quarter-final tie and continuing their hunt for a first-ever continental title, having only reached this stage in Europe's tertiary competition once before in 2022, when they failed to advance to the final four.

Their run in that campaign was ended by Marseille, but the Greek outfit have since enjoyed another impressive run to the last eight, initially fighting through qualifying before guaranteeing round-of-16 progression by finishing top of their group with a near-perfect record.

That set up a two-legged meeting with Dinamo Zagreb last month, and after suffering a 2-0 defeat in Croatia, Razvan Lucescu's side staged an impressive comeback with a 5-1 home triumph to prevail on aggregate, before travelling to Belgium for the first leg of their quarter-final tie last Thursday.

The White-Blacks endured a tough start in that crucial first meeting, falling behind inside the first 10 minutes, but after withstanding pressure throughout the game, they were able to keep the deficit at one goal, thanks in no small part down to Dominik Kotarski's save in the second half to deny Igor Thiago from the penalty spot.

Now bringing the tie back to Greece with everything still to fight for, PAOK will bid to make the most of home advantage on Thursday and turn the quarter-final on its head to progress to the semi-finals.

Club Brugge coach Nicky Hayen before the match on April 11, 2024© Reuters

Their visitors, meanwhile, will bid to see out their aggregate victory after last week's narrow win, as they also go in search of a first title on the continent this season.

Similarly to the Greek outfit, Club Brugge shone in Europa Conference League qualifying and the group stage, finishing first and earning automatic progression to the round of 16 with 16 points from six matches.

The Blauw-Zwart also fell behind in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie, losing 2-1 to Molde in March, but they would fight back to book a quarter-final spot with a 3-0 home win thanks to Andreas Skov Olsen's brace and Michal Skoras's goal.

With their sights set on the final four of Europe's tertiary competition, Nicky Hayen's side welcomed the White-Blacks to Belgium last Thursday and raced into a quick lead, as Hugo Vetlesen opened the scoring in the sixth minute, eventually settling for the one-goal lead before beating Royal Antwerp 3-0 at the Jan Breydel Stadium on Sunday to narrow the gap to the top two in the Belgian Pro League Championship round.

With momentum on their side, but perhaps feeling disappointed having not extended an aggregate lead on home turf last Thursday, particularly with the opportunity of a penalty in the final 15 minutes, Club Brugge will be desperate to defend their narrow advantage on Thursday and prevail in the quarter-final tie.

PAOK Europa Conference League form:

PAOK form (all competitions):

Club Brugge Europa Conference League form:

Club Brugge form (all competitions):

Team News

PAOK's Andrija Zivkovic celebrates scoring their fifth goal on March 14, 2024© Reuters

PAOK continue to deal with several injury issues ahead of Thursday's second leg, as defender William Troost-Ekong remains sidelined alongside Ivan Nasberg and Thomas Murg.

In their 4-2-3-1 shape, Brandon Thomas may lead the line after Mbwana Samatta was preferred for the first leg, while winger Kiril Despodov will also hope to come back in from the outset having notched up 13 goals so far this term.

He may displace Taison and join fellow danger men Giannis Konstantelias and top scorer Andrija Zivkovic in a supporting trio, while Soualiho Meite continues to play a key role at the base of the midfield.

Club Brugge face plenty of selection concerns ahead of the second leg, with defenders Brandon Mechele and Maxim De Cuyper and attacker Igor Thiago all ruled out through suspensions after meeting the threshold for yellow cards last time out, while goalkeeper Simon Mignolet remains confined to the treatment room alongside Denis Odoi, Casper Nielsen and key attacking midfielder Andreas Skov Olsen.

Thiago and Olsen lead their scoring charts with 26 and 23 goals respectively so far this season, and in their absence Ferran Jutgla will likely be relied upon to lead the line while Philip Zinckernagel, Antonio Nusa and Michal Skoras will compete to start on the wings.

Raphael Onyedika, Hugo Vetlesen and Hans Vanaken form an established midfield trio, while Kyriani Sabbe, Joel Ordonez, Jorne Spileers and Bjorn Meijer should line up in a back four given the losses of Mechele and De Cuyper.

PAOK possible starting lineup:
Kotarski; Vierinha, Kedziora, Koulierakis, Rahman; Meite, Schwab; Zivkovic, Konstantelias, Despodov; Thomas

Club Brugge possible starting lineup:
Jackers; Sabbe, Ordonez, Spileers, Meijer; Vetlesen, Onyedika, Vanaken; Zinckernagel, Jutgla, Skoras

SM words green background

We say: PAOK 2-0 Club Brugge (PAOK win 2-1 on aggregate)

While the visitors travel with a slender lead to defend, their squad is badly hit with key men missing at both ends of the pitch.

Given those extensive losses, particularly of Club Brugge's two top scorers, we back the Greek outfit to again overturn a deficit and prevail in the Europa Conference League.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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Group A

QSlovan Bratislava631210

Group B

QM. Tel Aviv650115

Group C

QDinamo Zagreb63039
4KF Ballkani61144

Group D


Group E

QAston Villa641113
4Zrinjski Mostar61144

Group F


Group G

4HJK Helsinki60242

Group H

4Spartak Trnava60151

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