It feels like an eternity since the eight-goal thriller with Bournemouth at Selhurst Park in May. But with a host of pre-season fixtures on the horizon, it will be intriguing to see how the squad shapes up over the coming weeks.
Palace’s trip to Biel/Bienne in Switzerland will commence this week as the annual Swiss pre-season cup competition, the Uhrencup, takes place. Other teams to feature will be: FC Luzern, BSC Young Boys and Eintracht Frankfurt. Palace will only play two fixtures in this competition and as we come up against more unfamiliar opponents, FC Luzern and BSC Young Boys, below is a profile of each of our Swiss opponents.
FC Luzern were founded in 1901 and are based just two kilometres from the city centre of Lucerne. Luzern joined the C League in 1903 and initially struggled to find any consistency within the Swiss professional leagues, often finding themselves switching between the B and A leagues. This trend has continued for much of the team’s history and the club may very well beat Palace for the definition of a ‘yo-yo’ team.
Recently, Luzern have been enjoying a stable period in the Swiss Super League, having achieved promotion from the second tier Challenge League - finishing as champions in 2006. They went on to reach the Swiss Cup final in 2012, but are now without a major trophy for 27 years. Over the past six seasons, they have finished in the top five places in the Super League which highlights their growing stability in this league.
Luzern have featured in the Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) numerous times but have never gone past the second round. For the past three seasons, they have made the qualifying stages, but are yet to make it past these preliminary stages of the competition. Luzern also had one appearance in the Champions League in the 1989-90 season but were eliminated in the first round after a 5-0 aggregate defeat to PSV Eindhoven. Luzern do have some domestic honours to their name, having won two Swiss cups (in 1960 and again in 1992) and their most successful season came in 1988-89 as they were crowned champions of the Super League.
Key Players: Luzern have a number of dangerous players in their ranks. Their talisman, Nigerian striker Blessing Eleke, joined the club last summer and was on form with 13 league goals and provided 5 assists last season in 32 appearances. As Eleke’s former strike partner, Ruben Vargas, recently transferred to FC Augsburg in Germany, goal scoring threats may come from other areas of the pitch. Right midfielder Christian Schneuwly will provide a threat having contributed with 4 goals and 6 assists in the 18/19 season. While fellow winger on the left, Pascal Schürpf, provides a similar threat having scored 9 and assisted 6 last seasons.
Manager: Thomas Häberli is the current manager of Luzern. A coach who is relatively unknown outside of Switzerland, Häberli had a solid career as a forward amongst some of the top Swiss teams having played for both BSC Young Boy and Basel. Although he was never a star player, he is regarded as a reliable player with cult status.
Häberli retired in 2009 and has since found regular employment, mainly as an assistant manager at various Swiss clubs. Leading FC Luzern is his first managerial position, having left
Basel as assistant coach in February 2019. Häberli has made a steady start to his managerial career at Luzern with a 40%-win rate in his first six months which helped Luzern to a fifth-place finish in the Super League, meaning Europa League qualifying stages will be awaiting the club shortly after their pre-season fixtures in the Uhrencup.
Based in the capital of Switzerland, Bern, BSC Young Boys were founded in 1898. Their unique name was used by the university students who founded the team as they wanted to differentiate themselves from another local team who were already established in the city - Basel Old Boys Association. Just five years after their formation, Young Boys won the first of many Swiss championships and have become one of the most successful teams in Switzerland.
Young Boys boast a vast collection of domestic honours, they have won the Swiss Cup six times and have 13 top tier league titles to their name. Their most recent championship titles have come in the past two years, following a drought of thirty-two years without winning the league.
During the club’s heyday in the late 50s, Young Boys won the league in four consecutive seasons. Throughout this period, the club had three appearances in the last 16 of the of the European Champion’s Club Cup (now the Champions League) and also reached the semi-final in 1958/59. Following this, Young Boys found it difficult to cement their place in the European competitions, often being eliminated at the qualifying or group stages. However, last season, they made it to the Champions League Group stages, but were knocked out of the competition after featuring in a tough group with Juventus, Manchester United and Valencia.
Key Players: Veteran forward Guillaume Hoarau is the club’s second oldest player. At 35 he has plenty of experience and used this to full effect last season by finding the net 24 times. His overall record is also threatening, having scored 60 goals in four years at Young Boys. Jean-Pierre Nsame was also threatening in front of goal last season, contributing 15 goals and providing 5 assists in 31 appearances.
Threats from other areas of the pitch could come from Moumi Nicola Ngameleu, who is regularly deployed on either wing. The Cameroonian contributed to 15 goals in 32 appearances last season. Miralem Sulejmani was the most economical player for Young Boys in the 18/19 season by setting up an incredibly impressive 12 goals and scoring seven in just 17 appearances after spending much of the season side-lined with a torn tendon and fractured foot.
Manager: Gerardo Seoane had an indifferent playing career in the Swiss leagues as a defensive midfielder making 273 appearances throughout his 15-year playing career. Coincidentally, he spent the majority of his career playing for Luzern and featured heavily in their 03/04, 08/09 and 95/96 seasons.
After retiring in 2010, Seoane went on to manage amongst Luzern’s youth teams, leading both the under 18s and 21s. He became assistant manager for Luzern to Markus Babbel in 2014. Eventually, he became manager of his boyhood club following the dismissal of Babbel in January 2018. Seoane only took charge of Luzern for 17 games with a respectable record.
However, following this short tenure, he became Young Boys manager at the beginning of last season and led the team to their second Super League title in as many seasons, finishing an impressive 20 points ahead of second place FC Basel.