Anderlecht – Club Brugge: Mbokani returns for his final fling
If the divine intervention Anderlecht seemingly require to overcome their penalty hoodoo does not look like arriving any time soon, they are at least able to call upon the services of Dieumerci Mbokani once more. The Golden Shoe winner’s return from suspension cannot come soon enough for an Anderlecht side, who for so long looked untouchable after 11 straight wins in autumn, are now in danger of relinquishing their grip on the the title.
Mbokani has missed four matches since he picked up a red card – the first of his career – against Genk for kicking out (rather tamely it must be said) at Jeroen Simaeys. Anderlecht won just once in the intervening period and last night saw Racing Genk leapfrog them at the top of the table, after Zulte Waregem’s three failed attempts at reaching the summit.
Les Mauve et Blanc are evidently a stronger side for having Mbokani spearheading the attack. They win more and score more and what’s more, he has a good record against Club Brugge but he’s scored just twice in the calendar year and can’t claim to be in form, much like his team. Nevertheless, Anderlecht are hanging their hat on his return, which crucially allows Matias Suarez to operate from a deeper role than he played in Liège (the Argentine provided 8 assists for Dieu last season) and also gives the reigning champions an added dimension upfront. Whether or not Mbokani’s return reinvigorates the side, Anderlecht will soon have to get used to life without him as the Congolese striker has made his intentions clear. He told VTM:
“Everyone knows that I will leave. I have already spoken with the club. Next year would be my last season here as my contract runs until 2014. We have spoken and they said that if a good club comes in for me, they will not stand in the way of a move. We will see what offers come in and consider them but I would prefer to go to England. The next eight games will have no impact on my future. It would be my best ever season if I could win the title here once again.”
Mbokani will have to choose very carefully after his unsuccessful time at Monaco and Wolfsburg. Three Premier League clubs will have scouts in attendance – Everton, West Brom and Wigan who are joined by representatives from Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio and Spartak Moscow. I doubt that Wolfsburg will be there watch Dieu but Anderlecht centre-half Cheikhou Kouyaté and Club Brugge trio Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe (whose move to Everton collapsed), Carlos Bacca (Belgium’s leading scorer) and Ryan Donk (still for me best at the back) will be on the radar of quite a few clubs. Don’t get me started on Lucas Biglia…
The two clashes between these bitter rivals so far this season could barely have been more different. In the interregnum period (i.e. after Leekens went and before Garrido’s appointment) Anderlecht destroyed Club Brugge 6-1 in Brussels with the only real positive for the visitors being how Lestienne stood up in adversity. In the return game, Club Brugge performed very well and led 2-0 (albeit with the help of a very controversial goal from Vadis) but saw the lead disappear as Anderlecht threw caution to the wind and Samuel Armenteros (who is unhappy at being relegated to the reserves) picked a great time to score his first goal in Belgium.
Club Brugge are a difficult team to nail down and this is down to the turbulent nature of their season. There are still worries at the back despite the promising start to life in Belgium of Costa Rican defender Oscar Duarte, who is a doubt, as is Fredrik Stenman. Jim Larsen is definitely out and at the other end, Lior Refaelov will be a miss. Though Club scored four in Lokeren last time out, they were given a helping hand by some questionable officiating and it would be premature to suggest that the scoreline is indicative of a team who are ready to challenge for top spot. Nevertheless, Club have the quality to capitalise on any uncertainty and nervousness in Anderlecht ranks.
Last week’s Clasico was a major disappointment. Mbokani’s return means we have the possibility of seeing three Golden Shoe winners on the pitch at the same time, should Jovanovic and Suarez also start. With youngsters Dennis Praet and Massimo Bruno taking a back seat of late, John van den Brom will hope his experienced, star-studded duo can inspire the young guns and fire Anderlecht to a 32nd title. If Paarswit are to achieve their goal, they’ll need one last burst of quality from Mbokani.
Anderlecht: Proto ; Odoi, Kouyaté, Nuytinck, Deschacht ; Biglia, Kljestan ; Bruno, Praet, Suarez ; Mbokani. Subs: Kaminski, De Zeeuw, Jovanovic, Iakovenko, Safari, De Sutter, Wasilewski
Club Brugge: Kujovic ; Meunier, Donk, Duarte, De Bock ; Vadis, Jørgensen, Vázquez ; Gudjohnsen, Bacca, Lestienne
Subs: Jorgacevic, Høgli, Hoefkens, Stenman, Adu, Refaelov, Trickovski