Group Stage Fan Preview: Young Boys

Zach Lowy interviews Swiss football expert Oliver Zesiger on what to expect from Young Boys’ this season.

ZL: What do you expect from Young Boys going into the group stage?

OZ: Their group is tough. But their style of play could be a good fit for playing against possession hungry teams. I’d expect them to at least get 4 points, which would be seen as a minor success.

ZL: Talk about their style of play, how should we expect them to play in the Champions League?

OZ: Under Hütter last season, they played a high pressing, high line, quick transition football. Since Hütter has left, they’re becoming more of a possession oriented team, but without furtherirng their style of old. I would expect them to revert to that quick transition style with high pressing in the UCL this season.

ZL: What would you say Young Boys’ biggest weakness is?

OZ: They haven’t shown many weaknesses, domestically this season. But their defence could lack in quality for the UCL. Mbabu and von Bergen are fine, but I have doubts over Wüthrich and Benito. I also think that their right winger, Christian Fassnacht, is still too inconsistent. And of course, they lack overall quality compared to their opponents in the group stage. But that was and still is the case for every Swiss team competing in the Champions League.

ZL: Who is Young Boys’ most important player?

OZ: It’s either Kevin Mbabu, their best player, or Sekou Sanogo, who holds their midfield together, is physically strong and a pest to play against. And he’s actually quite a good footballer as well.

ZL: And who is their weakest link?

OZ: Gregory Wüthrich is prone to errors from time to time. He’s been injured and was a backup for Kasim Nuhu last season. Now he’s finally getting his chance, but he’s not always up to his task.

What I generally can say, not as an answer to you last question is, YB had a spine of experienced players in von Bergen, Sanogo and especially club legend Guillaume Hoarau. That’s their base, which is complemented with young and exciting players like Mbabu, Ngamaleu and Assalé. It almost works to perfection this and last season. And that’s the work by sports director Christoph Spycher and chief scout Stephane Chapuisat.

ZL: What’s your predicted XI for them?

OZ: 4-4-2, from left to right: von Ballmoos; Benito, von Bergen, Wüthrich, Mbabu; Sulejmani, Sanogo, Sow, Fassnacht; Assalé, Hoarau

ZL:What’s one advantage Young Boys hold that their opponents won’t see coming?What’s one player you expect to break through for Young Boys this season?

OZ: I don’t know if breaking through is the right phrase, but Jan Kronig is in the first team squad at age 18 and very talented. He’s only centre-back number four, but should get playing time during the season.

ZL: What’s one advantage Young Boys hold that their opponents won’t see coming?

OZ: I think opponents will be surprised at how attacking YB will play against them. Also, their fans are very passionate, home and away, and can create an exciting atmosphere.

ZL: What’s one way YB can get a result against all of their opponents?

OZ: Don’t sit back too much and don’t be intimidated against those high reputation opponents. They are a good team, but it’s their first time in the big time. In terms of tactics, I would like them to employ a more counter-based style for the UCL. It worked like a charm last season for Basel, and YB have equally quick players to threaten on the counter.

ZL: What’s one YB player you expect to make a move in January?

OZ: Kevin Mbabu. He was close to a move to the Bundesliga this summer but opted to stay. After 6 games in the Champions League, he should get enough interest from big 5 league clubs. He’s an outstanding attacking full-back and he is ready for a move to a big league.