Who are FC Midtjylland? Danish side set to meet TNS in the Europa League third round
After their Europa League qualifying second round victory over Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps, The New Saints will face Denmark’s FC Midtjylland for a chance to reach the play offs.
TNS enter the competition in rich European form by their stands, having reached the third round of a competition for the first time since 2010, when they faced Anderlecht in the Champions League.
It will be a big occasion for TNS, who play their home leg at the 33,000 seater Cardiff City Stadium due to UEFA regulations.
Their home first leg will be played on Thursday 9 August with the second leg in Herning the following Thursday 16 August.
FC Midtjylland have been featuring in Europe regularly since 2001, and are most well known for producing a shock victory against Manchester United in the Europa League.
The Danes beat United 2-1 at their MCH Arena ground, but lost the tie 6-3 on aggregate.
But Manchester United aren’t the only British club they’re familiar with – they’ve gone against TNS once before in the second qualifying round of the 2011/12 Europa League.
In that tie, TNS were beaten 8-3 on aggregate and lost 3-1 at Park Hall.
The match will therefore be a good measure of the Saints’ progress over the years, and a mammoth task for manager Scott Ruscoe.
The Moneyball System
Midtyjlland are owned by Brentford owner Matthew Benham. Benham became involved in the club and helped them to the Danish title on a relatively small budget.
He became involved in the club having spoken to former Midtyjlland player Rasmus Ankersen, after graduating from Oxford university.
The way Midtyjlland go out about recruiting players, they identify players by using statistics to buy in to their philosophy. Former player Andersen spoke to FourFourTwo to explain how the Danish side recruit players: “Football is one of the hardest sports to draw statistical conclusions from,”
We cannot compete with the major European teams in quality of players.
“So we have to be smarter. It is about getting players to believe in it. When we truly believe in our philosophy, it is easier to work on it. And when it produces results, then it becomes even easier.”
The priority of statistics over the traditional scouting system worked. Brentford signed Andre Grey for £500,000 before being moved on to Burnley for 12 times the amount that they signed him for.
What’s their transfer business been like?
The Danish Champions have spent £5.26m this summer. It includes the return of Celtic and Danish centre-back Erik Sviatchenko for £1.03m. Dominick Drexler oined from German second-tier side Holstein Kiel for £2.25m but almost immediately shipped out to 1.FC Koln for €4.5m whilst right-back Joel Andersson has joined from BK Häcken for £1.17m.
Tough-tackling midfielder Manjrekar James has joined from Hungarian side Vasas on a free transfer, whilst Midtyjlland have also swooped for Ayo Simon Okosun from league rivals AC Horsens.
The club had to part with highly-rated Danish youngster Andreas Poulsen who joined German giants Borussia Monchengladbach for £4.05m, as well as allowing former Real Madrid and Spurs man Rafael van Der Vaart leave on a free transfer.
Who’s the captain and the manager?
Jess Thorup has been in the Midtyjlland hot seat for the last three years, taking up just his second club role since winding down from his club career 12 years ago.
The 48-year-old ended his playing career a 36, as he became assistant manager at Esbjerg fB, taking caretaker control of them in previous years.
He was finally given the opportunity to manage the club in 2011, replacing One Pedersen. In his time as manager, he won the Danish 1st Division, before winning the Danish Cup in EfB’s topflight season.
He spent just two years in the role though, leaving to take charge of the Denmark U21 national team. He won a total of 12 games in 23 appearances with a 52.17% win ratio.
Thorup returned to club management with Midtyjlland and boast a 53.13% win ratio, slightly higher than what he had with the Danish Under-21 national team.
His first piece of silverware, as when he won the Danish Superliga title with Midtyjlland last season.
35-year-old Jakob Poulsen is Midtyjlland’s captain and played in their Champions League defeat to Astana.
Poulsen is a full Denmark international, having made 35 appearances for his country, scoring two goals.
He has also previously played in a World Cup, coming on in a substitute in the 2010 World Cup.
His professional career began in 2002, when he made his debut for Esbjerg fB where he spent a total of four years. He then moved on to Heerenveen for a two year spell.
Poulsen returned to his native homeland to join AGF, where he spent a total of two years with. A move to Midtyjlland followed where he won his league titles and earnt his move to French giants AS Monaco, making 17 appearances.
He returned to Monaco after two years and has since gone on to make 141 league appearances for The Wolves, scoring 23 goals. The Varde-born midfielder has won two Danish Superliga Championships.
How did they get to this stage?
The Danish Superliga ran from the 14th July 2017 to May 2018, with the Danes opting for a summer league.
Midtyjlland are already three league games into their campaign, with four points on the board.
In the regular season, Brondy finished above Midtyjlland via goal difference on 60 points each, but the Championship round proved to be where the Wolves would find their form. The picked up fifteen points from their final ten games, finishing on 85 points, four ahead of Brondby.
Altogether, Midtyjlland won 27 times, drew four and lost five, scoring 80 goals and conceding 39.
Despite winning the league, Midtyjlland had no players in the top goalscorer charts.
Due to Denmark’s UEFA coefficient, FC Midtyjlland came in to the Champions League in the Second qualifying round, a round above The New Saints.
However they fell at the first hurdle, losing away to Kazakh champions Astana in the first leg. Laszlo Kleinheisler scored the opening goal for Astana, before Gustav Wikheim equalised for Midtyjlland. Kleinheisler was at the double though, scoring a 94th minute winner, to give them a first leg advantage.
After winning their first league game of the season against Esbjerg at the third time of asking, they returned to Champions League action. A 0-0 draw with Astana on Wednesday evening saw them bow out of the Champions League and into the second tier of Europe.
(Featured Image: InfoGibraltar)