Brentford B team flew to The Algarve, Portugal to compete in the Atlantic Cup – an established competition which sees European sides compete against other to retain fitness in the winter break . The Bees are set to compete against the likes of Breiðablik, FC Zenit, FC Midtjylland, Brøndby,Vålerenga, Halmstads BK and FC Copenhagen. A narrow 2-1 defeat to Breiðablik saw Tristan Crama net for the Bees in a game in which they missed a hatful of chances.
The West London side has an opportunity to make amends as they take on Danish Champions Brondby at Estádio Algarve on Tuesday 8th February. Danish journalist Toke Møller Theilade (@TokeTheilade) from Vilfortpark.dk gives us the lowdown on Brondby as they prepare for their second match in the competition.
Danish Champions Brondby have undergone big changes this January but there are big concerns as to whether the squad is at the level where it need to be to challenge for the title once again. Currently Brøndby are sitting third in the league, five points behind FC Midtjylland. But after a busy transfer window in January, most fans are looking downwards as opposed to upwards as the team struggles to come to terms with the recent overhaul.
The Brøndby – Brentford connection
Despite the obvious ownership connection between Brentford and rivals FC Midtjylland, many Brondby IF fans have developed a soft spot for their opponent. The reason is partly because of Thomas Frank, who was at Brøndby before moving to London. But especially due to Christian Nørgaard who is a bit of a Brondby legend.
The hard-working midfielder developed into a club a club icon during his five-year stint in the yellow and blue kit from 2013 to 2018. He played 118 Superliga games for Brøndby and when he left for Fiorentina in 2018, he was one of the top three best players to have played for Brondby in the past decade.
Nørgaard transformed from a shaky, poor-performing offensive midfielder to the best holding midfielder in the league and a true leader. He scored crucial goals, including a winner against arch-rivals FC Copenhagen, and his hard work allowed the more creative players the freedom they needed to flourish.
As for Thomas Frank, the story is less pretty. He arrived at the club with high hopes in 2013 but because of chaos off the field and an inexperienced leadership in the board room, he never really got his team off the ground. He did secure a set of bronze medals and returned the club to European football. But hopes were higher.
In the end, he got the ugliest exit of any Brøndby coach as club owner Jan Bech Andersen heavily criticised him on a fan forum under an anonymous pseudonym – only to be exposed weeks later. The embarrassing behaviour understandably led to Frank resigning and if truth be told, he hasn’t looked back since.
A team in transformation
Brøndby surprised everybody last season by winning the Danish Championship for the first time since 2005 and even with no disruptions, that achievement was always going to be difficult repeat this time around.
In the summer, they sold midfield dynamo Jesper Lindstrøm to Frankfurt, and he has been severely missed. Lindstrøm was the creative focal point of the team, contributing with ten assists last season. No other midfielder has been able to fill this role.
Had it not been for last season’s top-scorer Mikael Uhre continuing his stellar form in front of goal, the loss of Lindstrøm would likely have eliminated Brøndby from the championship race already. In January, the club has continued its frustrating trend of selling its best players with January seeing striker Mikael Uhre leave for MLS club Philadelphia Union whilst holding midfielder Morten Frendrup has been sold to Genoa in the Italian Serie A.
To replace them, Brøndby have signed the unproven Frederik Alves Ibsen from West Ham’s reserve team and Carl Björk from Norrköping in Sweden.
Both cheap and inexperienced signings, which fits well together with the whole “buy cheap and young” strategy of the club, but that doesn’t help much against the powerhouses of Copenhagen and Midtjylland this season.
Players to look out for
Whilst Brøndby doesn’t have the star power of their competitors in the top of Danish football now, it is by no means a weak side that has travelled to Atlantic Cup this month.
In goal, Mads Hermansen is one of the most promising young keepers in Scandinavia. He was handed the goalie gloves this season and has largely impressed.
He is a brilliant shot stopper and the clear number one in the Danish U21 national team. Hermansen could very well end up as the next Brøndby player transferring to a big international league very soon.
Defensively, Paraguay international left back Blas Riveros and Danish international centre back Andreas Maxsø both stand out. Maxsø is the most important player on the entire team, and a leader in the truest sense of the word. He was inches away from a move to Bordeaux in January but the deal fell short in the last minute. This means Brøndby fans get one last spring with their captain before he inevitably leaves the club for bigger challenges after this season.
In the midfield, the most exciting player, is youngster Anis Ben Slimane. He was a regular for Tunisia during the Africa Cup of Nations in January, and he is Brondby’s creative focal point these days. A 6 foot 2 midfielder with a good eye for the ball, great perception and his technique is of the highest calibre. There is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to end-product, but he is an interesting player who has a bright future.
Up front, Brøndby have huge question marks. With Uhre leaving the club, there are no obvious goal scorers in the squad. His striking partner Simon Hedlund has never been much of a goal scorer and none of the reserves such as Andrija Pavlovic and Mathias Kvistgaarden have performed when given the chance. Head coach Niels Frederiksen will be looking for these players to step up during training camp.
Brøndby are going into the game as favorites, and although it is a friendly, the expectation is to win. The expectations for the spring are high back here on the outskirts of Copenhagen and it all begins during this winter training camp where the players and coaching staff are laying the foundation.