Belgian Pro League Play Off Round Up
The Belgian league system has many flaws, that the two relegation threatened sides must play each other up to five times is woeful enough. That the top 6 are separated into their own league, their regular season points halved and a further 10 matches played has many detractors, but one undoubted area of praise is that it always provides spectacular moments.
Club Brugge currently lead the table. They have dominated the league all year and while people wonder if Anderlecht can win a fourth in a row, or consider if Standard Liege can recover from last seasons heartache it has been the ‘other’ Belgian club that have set the pace for the 2014/15 season. Nicolas Castillo was the early season stand out, his 8 goals undoubtedly pushing Club Brugge on to the top of the table and his departure to Mainz in mid-season was tempered by the rise of Izquierdo and De Sutter who also both have 8 goals this season. While the bookmakers are tipping Anderlecht for the title, it has been Club Brugge who have looked impervious all season and while competing on three fronts – domestic and European cup competitions are still ongoing – is seemingly taking its toll there is every chance Club Brugge can see this out.
It is, however, very difficult to look past Anderlecht. Searching for their fourth title in a row they have just suffered the loss of Steven Defour who took an ankle injury in a match with Kortrijk last weekend. A match that represented a scene from The Expendables rather than two of Belgian’s best teams this season playing football. Youri Tielemans has continued to thrive and if he does leave in the summer, most likely with Mitrovic moving on too, Anderlecht would love to cap it off with another title. An away trip to Lokeren, who are looking to keep slim play off hopes alive, could be a tough match but Anderlecht should overcome their opponents – with or without the help of former player Dennis Odoi.
It has taken a long, long time but it seems that finally Gent may have got their act together. Often seen as part of the ‘big five’ despite usually languishing some way off the top five places this has been a great season for De Buffalos. 12 goals for Laurent Depoitre is a big reason for Gent’s success with Benito Raman and 19-year-old Moses Simon both weighing in with 6 goals each. Simon managing 6 in 7 appearances for the side.
While looking at the teams above them, Gent are also well aware of the now clicking Standard Liege. With Imoh Ezekiel back on loan, Igor De Camargo claiming to be 100% committed but Paul-Jose Mpoku now in Italy, Jose Riga’s side are the in-form team at the moment. Since a pre-Christmas defeat to Club Brugge, Standard Liege have not lost in the league. 7 wins and 2 draws, including a 2-0 win over Anderlecht means that after a terrible start Standard are on a hot streak and can’t be discounted from the title chat. Should they keep this form going then they will certainly worry Club Brugge and Anderlecht who will most likely have to subdue Standard themselves to win the league.
The top four are pretty certain it seems. Kortrijk are falling away but should make the top six due to their final two matches being against Cercle Brugge and Lierse, which should be six points no trouble. Ẁhile their recent 2-0 loss to Anderlecht highlighted the very worst about the side their 6-0 win over Westerlo and 7-1 win over KV Oostende more than show the brilliance of Ivan Santini, the leagues top scorer with 13 goals.
Sporting Charleroi are having a fantastic season under Felice Mazzu. Few people suspected them to be anywhere near the top of the table following from last season but 19 goals from Kitambala, Kebano and Faure means they are in with a top 6 shout. A match with Club Brugge could be a struggle but if it comes down to the final day they do play Mouscron Peruwelz who look likely to be in the bottom two come the end of the season.
Finally Genk, under the stewardship of Alex McLeish are unsurprisingly stingy. Only one match since the turn of the year has seen more than 3 goals scored and matches against Zulte Waregem and Standard Liege mean they probably have the toughest run in of the three teams occupying 5th-7th. One boon for Genk is their unwillingness to concede, at 25 goals they have conceded the fewest this season. Although at 35 goals scored they also seem to have an unwillingness to score too.
Regardless of what happens, the run in to the Play Offs should definitely provide some thrills and spills as each team looks to be the form team.