The Europa League group stage draw saw Rangers go up against Danish champions Brøndby IF. Some Rangers fans might know the club as the place Brian Laudrup began his professional career before famously moving abroad and eventually ending up in Glasgow. The Danish side is in their first European group stage since 2005, when Laudrup’s brother, Michael, was the head coach, but they are in a poor state just a few months after celebrating the first championship in 16 years.
Toke Theilade from Vilfort Park, a website dedicated to the yellow-blues, gives the lowdown on the Danish challengers and gives you everything you need to know about the side from the outskirts of Copenhagen.
A short but proud history
Brøndby was founded in 1964 after the merger of two local clubs. The motivation for the merger was the construction of a proper training pitch, which the two clubs refused to share.
At the time, more and more people were moving from the small apartments in Copenhagen to the newly constructed city areas in the suburbs surrounded by green areas and plenty of space. And with the large influx of citizens, so came also a larger demand for proper sporting opportunities. It was also at this time, that the Laudrup patriarch, Finn, moved his family to Brøndby, and eventually he became head coach at the club and signed both of his sons, Michael and Brian, up to join the club.
Since then, Brøndby have moved from an irrelevant town club to Denmark’s most popular club, and the list of accolades along the way is long. In the trophy case at Brøndby Stadion there are 11 Danish championships and a long list of Denmark’s greatest players have pulled the yellow and blue shirt over the head.
The club also has proud European traditions. The best European result came in 1991, where Brøndby were just a handful of minutes from reaching the UEFA Cup final. Unfortunately, a late goal by AS Roma’s Rudi Völler ruined that dream. In 1998, BIF qualified for the Champions League for the first, and so far, only time, and in 2005 it reached the UEFA Cup group stage.
Since then, unfortunately, the good results have been fewer and far between, so it is by no means an experienced team that is facing Rangers.
Last season, Brøndby won the first championship since 2005, and brought the fans into a state of pure ecstasy. Between this and the last championship, the yellow-blues have gone through a lot, and been on the brink of both relegation as well as bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon days quickly disappeared. Not long after the last game of the season, several key players left the club. In fact, four players from the starting lineup of the last game, a goalkeeper, two central defenders and a midfielder, left the club on free transfers soon after, despite all being regulars in the starting lineup. Soon after, the club sold Jesper Lindstrøm, arguably the biggest star on the team, to Eintract Frankfurt, removing the fifth starter from the championship winning squad.
The replacements are all young players coming from smaller clubs, and with the transfer window having just closed, it is safe to say that the squad is far from the level of last season.
Head coach Niels Frederiksen has, since the early days of his stint with the club, preferred a 3-5-2 with wingbacks, where Brøndby sits back and exploit the open space behind the opponent’s defenses with quick and lethal counter attacks.
Brøndby are by no means playing attractive football, but Frederiksen are exploiting the strengths of his players fully. He knows the limitations of the squad, and he isn’t trying to make things more complicated than they have to be.
They are playing with three centerbacks with captain Andreas Maxsø as the centerpiece. He is the one starting the attacks from the back, and he is leading the defense. His importance has grown this season, as he’s surrounded by two inexperienced partners.
The wingbacks are responsible for providing the width to an otherwise narrow midfield, and are important in the offense. It has however been an issue that Frederiksen has often been forced to field a right legged wingback on the left due to the long-term injury of Paraguay international, Blas Riveros. This has severely limited the production from this.
Centrally, the team is playing with three midfielders. Mathias Greve is the offensive minded general, expected to lead the attack. Behind him, Josip Radosevic provides the defensive stability alongside either Morten Frendrup or Christian Cappis, who are both acting as more dynamic box-to-box midfielders.
Up front, Brøndby have last season’s Superliga topscorer Mikael Uhre and Simon Hedlund. Both are strikers with a lot of pace, who are good at finding open space behind the defense. This is arguably, Brøndby’s most dangerous weapon. Uhre is the front striker and goal scorer with Hedlund playing a little deeper on the pitch and providing the link between the midfield and Uhre.
Expected lineup: Hermansen – Maxsø, Tshiembe, Skipper – Mensah, Frendrup, Radosevic, Greve, Bruus – Uhre, Hedlund
Players to look out for
Captain Andreas Maxsø is by far the most important player in the squad. He is the leader of an inexperienced team, and the guy that the young players can trust to help them out when needed. Maxsø has developed into one of the best central defenders in the Superliga since his move to Brøndby in 2019, and he is now a part of the national team as well. Unfortunately, for Brøndby, Maxsø has a low buy-out clause in his contract, making it likely that his time with the club is soon over as bigger challenges awaits.
Up front, Mikael Uhre is the man to watch. After years of underperforming, he finally broke through last season where he finished as the top scorer in the Danish league with 19 goals. Uhre is a fast striker and a lethal finisher.
He finished last season with a scoring percentage on staggering 30.2, and he outscored his expected goals with 1.1. At the time of writing, Uhre has scored four goals in seven matches, and even set up three open chances for his teammates, thus showing no signs of slowing down.
Low expectations from Denmark
Despite Brøndby’s storied past, only the most optimistic fans are expecting the team to be competitive in the Europa League. Sporting Director Carsten V. Jensen has admitted that he’ll be satisfied with finishing third in the group, but even that could be a stretch.
The team is, to put it simply, too young at the moment, and it lacks experienced leaders who have tried playing these huge games before. Furthermore, the squad lacks depth, and adding the travel time and huge games to an already tightly packed autumn, can cause difficulties for the squad. It certainly has been for stronger teams in the past.
A realistic expectation is that Brøndby should try and get a handful of points at home, where they will be backed by a passionate and loud crowd, but it is, frankly, unlikely that the Danes will contend in the top of the group.
It promises to be a fascinating encounter between the two sides, in a fixture that has never happened before. May the best side win, but going by Brøndby’s season so far, that already seems to be Rangers! Still, here’s to a great match.