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Bruges already looking to Europa League ahead of Galatasaray clash

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By Reuters
Bruges already looking to Europa League ahead of Galatasaray clash
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Group Stage - Group I - KRC Genk v Besiktas - Luminus Arena, Genk, Belgium - November 8, 2018 Genk coach Philippe Clement before the match REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts   -   Copyright  FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS(Reuters)

(Reuters) – Belgium’s Club Bruges are treating their Champions League opener against Galatasaray on Wednesday as effectively a battle for a Europa League spot with powerhouses Paris St Germain and Real Madrid making up their group.

“If we win it is a good step in the direction of third place in the group, I think that’s a better way to look at it than rather a must-win game,” their coach Philippe Clement told a news conference on Tuesday.

With two of Europe’s wealthiest and most powerful clubs also in Group A, the Belgians are realistically focusing their sights on third place, which would ensure a spot in the knockout stage of the Europa League next year.

The top two advance to the last 16 of the Champions League while the last-placed team in the group is eliminated.

“If we draw then we’ve still got a 50-50 chance and if we lose then we’ll have some serious catching up to do,” he said.

“Galatasaray are a big team with a much bigger budget than us but we are going to fight them with all we’ve got.

“In our group PSG and Real are in a higher category but that is not to say we are just going to give up against them. We will be competitive,” Clement added.

Yet the Club Bruges coach insisted that Wednesday’s home clash against the Turkish team was not a must-win game.

“That theory will not impact on the rest of our campaign, we will still have five great games after this,” he told reporters.

“We are the first Belgian club to qualify for the group phase through the preliminary rounds and therefore our European campaign is already a success.

“I just want my players to show determination and effort in all the games against all the opponents in this group. It is a young squad that will make mistakes, but we want to get as many points as we can.”

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)