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HomeSportFootball: Difficult return to Europe for Osasuna after 17-year wait

Football: Difficult return to Europe for Osasuna after 17-year wait

Spanish club Osasuna will make their European comeback for the first time since 2007 as they face the Belgian team, Bruges, in the preliminary round of the Conference League on Thursday.

The team from Pamplona, which secured a seventh-place finish in La Liga last season, endured an uncertain period before their European spot was confirmed. This was due to an investigation into match-fixing allegations from the 2013-14 La Liga season.

While the club was initially ousted from the competition, their position was restored on appeal. They received a fine of 100,000 euros and were directed to surrender five percent of their income from the group stage should they qualify, reports Xinhua.

UEFA determined that the match-fixing was orchestrated by the club’s former directors, some of whom have since been sentenced to prison in Spain.

Osasuna entered this match after starting La Liga with a 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo but suffered a 2-0 defeat against Athletic Club Bilbao the subsequent weekend.

Winger Kike Barja, who sat out last weekend due to a minor muscle issue, is expected to be ready by Thursday. Coach Jagoba Arrasate plans to deploy his strongest lineup.

Bruges, currently leading the Belgian league with three victories and one draw from four matches, advanced to the preliminary round with an impressive 10-2 aggregate triumph over the Icelandic team, Knattspyrnufelag Akureyrar. 

Their storied European history includes reaching the Champions League’s last-16 in the previous season, emerging from a group that ousted both Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.

With the subsequent leg in Belgium set for the following week, predicting the outcome of this tie is challenging. Yet, considering Osasuna’s athletic and legal battles to return to European competition after 16 years, it would be somewhat ironic if they faltered at this initial stage.

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