With four impressive teams in Young Boys, FC Luzern, Eintracht Frankfurt and Crystal Palace set to compete in Biel/Bienne and Bern in the latest instalment of the Uhrencup and all the excitement over coaches reuniting with former clubs and returning to old haunts, it can’t be forgotten that the main attraction for the fans that will be flocking to get a piece of the action is the players.
So who are the key men for fans look out for who will be lighting up the stage at this year’s tournament?
Guillaume Hoarau (Forward, BSC Young Boys)
Young Boys’ leading marksman hit 24 league goals and registered six assists for Young Boys over the 2018/19 season, securing the Swiss Super League Golden Boot Award as Gerardo Seoane’s men romped to a second consecutive title.
The 35-year-old former France international from Reunion has hit well over 100 goals in the five years since he arrived in Bern and despite his growing age, his ruthless streak has not left him. He has formed a potent partnership with fellow forward Jean-Pierre Nsamé, with the pair often profiting from the support of Christian Fassnacht and Thorsten Schick from the flanks.
The focal point of the attack, his height makes him a real aerial threat for opposition defenders and an effective hold-up player, and he often links play through this side of his game with short passes to link the midfield to the forward line. He is also ice-cool from the penalty spot, as seen when he notched a brace against Juventus in the Champions League group stages.
Jean-Pierre Nsame (Forward, BSC Young Boys)
Cameroonian Nsame has established himself as a fans’ favourite over his first two seasons with Young Boys. The 26 year old forward notched 13 league goals in 2017/18 as the Bernese club secured a first domestic title in 32 years, and bettered that tally last campaign with 15 as they successfully defended their title.
Nsame is a strong forward who can use both feet and is renown for his impressive movement and pace to help him get behind defences, which has proved particularly effective when Young Boys look hit teams on the counter. Like his strike partner Hoarau, he is proficient in the air, an effective poacher and a potent finisher.
Sebastien Haller (Forward, Eintracht Frankfurt)
A capped U21 international for France, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Sebastien Haller hit an impressive 20 goals in all competitions in 2018/19 including 15 league goals and nine league assists in his second Bundesliga season. His other five goals came in Eintracht’s remarkable run to the semi-finals of the Europa League.
A huge improvement on his tally of nine goals in his first Bundesliga season, the 25 year old continues to go from strength to strength. Alongside Ante Rebic and the now departed Luka Jovic, Haller helped form one of the Bundesliga’s most feared forward lines, with his 15 league goals totalling over a third of the 41 that the trio managed between them. An impressive return considering that he missed a month of action in April through injury.
A target man by trade, Haller is a proficient hold-up player and header of the ball and has been likened to compatriot Olivier Giroud in his style of play. The direct, long ball style of play deployed by Adi Hütter plays well to Haller’s aerial strengths, and he won 205 aerial challenges in the Bundesliga last season, incidentally the best total in the division. Yet despite being a target man he is an intelligent forward who doesn’t give away many free-kicks in the final third to offer opposition defences respite. He is also an adept penalty taker, converting all three spot kicks he took last season.
Ante Rebic (Forward/Winger, Eintracht Frankfurt)
25 year old Croat Ante Rebic has thrived in the Bundesliga since arriving from Serie A side Fiorentina. 2017/18 was his breakthrough season, as he hit six league goals in 25 Bundesliga outings and netted a brace against Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal Final as Eintracht went on to life the trophy. Even that was before he went on to play an integral part in Croatia’s historic run to the World Cup Final in Russia that summer, where he featured in all but one game.
His imperious form continued into the 2018/19 season when he notched nine goals and four assists in 28 outings, forming part of a deadly attacking line alongside Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller.
Rebic’s strength is one of his greatest assets, both in retaining possession and holding the ball up against opposing defences. Two quick feet and impressive work rate make Rebic an ideal forward for the modern game, either operating centrally or more commonly out wide.
Luka Milivojevic (Midfielder, Crystal Palace)
Arriving as a relatively unknown player to English football fans, Milivojevic has made himself a real favourite amongst Crystal Palace supporters during his spell in England thus far.
He has certainly come far since turning out for Radnički Kragujevac, Rad and Red Star Belgrade back in his native Serbia. The combative midfielder was already a capped international when he first made the move to Western Europe turning out in the Belgian Pro League with Anderlecht before moving to Greek giants Olympiacos. After winning two league titles in Greece, a €16 million transfer to Crystal Palace followed in January 2017.
Milivojević had never taken a penalty before arriving at Palace, but soon developed a reputation for taking spot kicks and set pieces, scoring nine out of the ten penalties he took in his first season and a half with the Eagles. Some of his most notable penalty goals have come against London rivals Arsenal, and reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, including a winner for Palace in a shock 3-2 triumph at Etihad Stadium.
He has finished as Palace’s leading scorer for the last two seasons, with ten in the 2017/18 season and 12 in 2018/19 as the Eagles twice avoided relegation under Hodgson. He also represented his country at last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Andros Townsend (Winger, Crystal Palace)
A graduate of the Tottenham Hotspur academy and having featured in various England youth teams, Townsend took time to establish himself as a Premier League regular. After enduring spells out on loan at lower league clubs in England, Townsend established himself as a Tottenham player from 2013-15 before falling out of favour. He subsequently ended up at Palace in 2016, following a brief spell at Newcastle United.
Since joining the Eagles, Townsend has established a potent partnership with fellow attacker, Wilfried Zaha, yet is a dangerous player in his own right. Two-footed, skilful and blessed with pace and an eye for goal, Townsend’s talents have seen him picked for England on thirteen occasions, scoring three goals.
Incidentally, the manager who handed Townsend his England debut is Crystal Palace’s current boss, Roy Hodgson, who has relished working with the exciting winger again. As well as his creativity and craft, he is unafraid of trying for spectacular goals. Indeed, his long-range strike against Manchester City in a 3-2 win for Palace at Etihad Stadium scooped the Premier League Goal of the Season award for the 2018/19 season.
Eager to force himself back into the England international setup and fire Palace up the Premier League table next season, Townsend is sure to make a big impression at the Uhrencup and is a player that spectators are sure to enjoy watching.
Blessing Eleke (Forward, FC Luzern)
23 year old Nigerian forward Eleke has proven a shrewd acquisition since Luzern forked out around 1 million francs to sign him from Israeli outfit Ashdod. He adhered himself to the Luzern faithful from when he first touched a ball in the blue shirt, scoring in a 4-2 win over Lugano.
That began an impressive debut season in Switzerland when he scored a total 13 goals and registered three assists in 32 league appearances as Luzern secured a Europa League qualifying place. Eleke also bagged a further four goals in five appearances in the Helvetia Cup.
A tall and athletic forward who has previous experience of playing in Europe at Gorica and Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, Eleke is good in the air, uses his strength to hold up the bell and can rely on his pace to turn away from opposition defenders and create opportunities. Combined with a devastating eye for goal and not afraid to attempt spectacular goals from distance, Eleke will be looking to build on an impressive debut season in Switzerland with the Uhrencup this year a perfect springboard to do so. One to keep an eye on in future for sure.