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This Week In Football: Benfica batter Club Brugge, Austin FC stunned in the Dominican Republic & more

It has been a week full of Champions League action — not just in Europe but all over the world. We have action from four continents to cover in this Friday’s edition of This Week In Football.

🏆 UEFA Champions League: Benfica 5-1 Club Brugge (7-1 on aggregate)

Among the four Champions League ties this week, Benfica vs Club Brugge was perhaps the only one that seemed close to settled even before kick-off as the Portuguese side brought a two-goal lead to their home leg.

They had no intentions of messing about, though, as was proven by João Mário’s early strike that got ruled out for offside. Benfica did add to their lead before half-time in Lisbon through Rafa Silva and Gonçalo Ramos, so the tie was almost definitely done then.

Still, Benfica did not let up and scored three more in the second half, leading to a bit of a humiliation for Club Brugge on Europe’s biggest stage.

Their league form has not been great either as the defending champions have just two wins from 11 since the World Cup break, so this proved to be the last straw in Scott Parker’s disastrous tenure.

🏆 CONCACAF Champions League: Violette AC 3-0 Austin FC

Over in North America, the CONCACAF Champions League got underway for the 2022/23 season. This is the last time the tournament will start immediately with the round of 16, as it expands to a 27-team competition next season onwards.

It’s always an interesting competition when Central American and Caribbean sides face off against Mexican or Major League Soccer sides, not least because of various legal issues such as difficulties in obtaining visas that can mess things up. We often see ‘home’ legs being played in neutral venues.

In the case of Austin FC’s visit to the Dominican Republic to face Haitian side Violette AC, the reason they could not play this match in Port-au-Prince was cited as safety concerns.

The geographical relocation of this match did not deter the Violette AC fans from showing their support in their own way.

Backed with this lively soundtrack, the Caribbean Club Championship holders pulled off a big upset as they came away with a resounding 3-0 win against the MLS outfit.

They still have work to do in Austin next week (when visa issues could play spoilsport) but are in a great position to get off to make this an even more successful debut CONCACAF Champions League campaign.

🏆 UEFA Europa League: Union Berlin 3-3 Union Saint-Gilloise

Back in Europe, there were some fun ties in the Europa League and Europa Conference League. In terms of the on-pitch action, nothing trumped the reunion between the Unions this week.

Meeting again in East Berlin just about four months after their last meeting in the group stage of the same competition, the two sides produced a six-goal thriller.

The hosts controlled most of the match and created by far the better chances, but a deflected long-range strike and two counter-attacking sucker punches enabled Union Saint-Gilloise to take the lead on three separate occasions.

Union Berlin pegged them back on each occasion, of course, through a direct free-kick, a rebound after a saved penalty and finally as late as 89 minutes in.

This was an enthralling game for the neutrals, and given how finely it is poised, we are in for a cracking second leg in Belgium next week too.

🏆 CAF Champions League: Al Hilal Omdurman 2-0 Coton Sport

Over in Africa, the CAF Champions League is still in its group stage, but things are getting quite interesting there too. Group B was touted as the group of death before the tournament kicked off, and a major upset could well be on the cards.

South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Egyptian giants Al Ahly are the two teams most would have expected to advance, but the latter are under serious threat of being replaced by Sudanese champions Al Hilal Omdurman.

They beat Coton Sport 2-0 in midweek to make it nine points from four games, temporarily climbing to the top of the standings.

(Image credit: FotMob)

The trouble for Al Ahly is that they have already lost to Al Hilal earlier in the tournament and are up against the Mamelodi Sundowns next. If they lose that fixture, they will need to win both of their subsequent fixtures, the last of which is at home against Al Hilal.

🏆 Copa Sudamericana Qualification: Caracas 0-1 Academia Puerto Cabello

Continental competitions have not gotten into full swing quite yet in South America, where the final qualifying rounds for the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana kicked off this week.

Two-legged ties will decide the remaining participants of the Libertadores, but one-off matches between teams from the same nation were the way to go for the latter.

We had 16 such matches and consequently 16 new qualifiers, of which Academia Puerto Cabello are the only ones who will be making their full tournament debut in the group stage.

As one might guess from the name, this is a club known for its youth academy. It was only founded as an academy as recently as 2011 before eventually setting up a senior side in 2014.

They missed out on Copa Sudamericana qualification in this round last season but have gone one better that this time out.

Their win over Caracas made it six from six at the start of the 2023 season. Of course, that means they have a perfect record in the league, where they currently find themselves leading the way.

(Image credit: FotMob)

It is still very early days, but this already looks set to be a special year in the short history of Academia Puerto Cabello.

👀 What To Watch Next:

Another busy weekend of football is in store for us, so here are a few matches to keep an eye out on.

🇩🇪 Germany: Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 17:30 UTC)
The first Revierderby of 2023 has the potential to have major implications at either end of the table, as hosts Schalke start off in the relegation zone but level on points with two teams above them, while Dortmund are level at the top with Bayern Munich.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Chelsea vs Manchester United (Sunday, 12:30 UTC)
A potentially pivotal match in the WSL kicks off a busy Sunday, as league leaders Manchester United visit second-placed Chelsea with a one-point buffer but having played one more game than them.

🇧🇪 Belgium: Genk vs Union Saint-Gilloise (Sunday, 17:30 UTC)
The Belgian Pro League has not broken off into the championship play-off yet where these two sides will likely be playing higher-stakes matches, but the clash between the top two this weekend should be regarded as a big one in the build-up to that.

Stats courtesy FotMob and Transfermarkt.

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