Champions League 2015/16 profiles: KAA Gent
Alongside French contenders Lyon, talented La Liga outfit Valencia and Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg in Group H, surprise Belgium Pro League victors KAA Gent face a tough Champions League campaign and are 6/1 with Coral to progress.
Domestic league: Belgian Pro League
How they qualified: Sensationally rallying to their first ever Belgian league crown under the guidance of boss Hein Vanhaezebrouck, overcoming the likes of Club Brugge, Anderlecht and Standard Liege for their maiden domestic title.
Best Champions League era performance: Gent are making their Champions League group stage bow this season, having never previously qualified before, but have experience in both the Europa League and old Intertoto Cup.
Before the latter was discontinued in 2008, a summer competition for those teams that did not make it into either of Europe’s big two competitions, Gent were runners-up in 2006 and 2007, and also reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1992.
Coach: Gent’s 51-year-old coach Vanhaezebrouck only took charge of the Belgian club in May last year, and realised his biggest success to date last term, winning the country’s top flight after previously lifting second and third division titles.
Ins and outs: Gent managed to retain the services of all their top stars this summer, possibly through the prospect of game time in Europe’s elite club competition, including hitman Laurent Depoitre and Belgium Under-21 international Thomas Foket.
The champions also saw the arrival of attacking midfielder Thomas Matton from domestic rivals KV Kortrijk, while 26-year-old Swedish centre back Erik Johansson will sure-up the defence for their Champions League debut.
Familiar faces: Celtic fans may remember the name Rami Gershon, with the versatile defender having spent a six-month loan spell at Parkhead from former club Standard Liege, netting the opener in a victory over Inverness on his Scottish debut.
Key player: Belgian frontman Depoitre was one of the top scorers in the country last campaign, as he fired Gent to a famous league title triumph, and he will be pivotal to any success in the Champions League group stages.
One to watch: January arrival Moses Simon, just 20 years of age, could set to be a star at the club, having reportedly turned down a move to Sunderland this summer, and has already dispatched plenty of league goals in his short career.
Emerging talent: Belgium Under-21 international Foket should provide his side with plenty of creative flair and a sense of calmness in midfield, with the 20-year-old having learned his trade at Gent since senior debut in 2012.
CL group and fixtures:
v Lyon (Home), September 16th
v Zenit (Away), September 29th
v Valencia (Away), October 20th
v Valencia (Home), November 4th
v Lyon (Away), November 24th
v Zenit (Home), December 9th