Every Jupiler Pro League team previewed!
The name has barely been engraved on the World Cup trophy and the Red Devils’ run to the quarters is yet to sink in but we are back for another season of Belgian football. Why so early?A spin doctor would say to ensure the clubs are up-and-running for European competition but the cold reality is that the need to fit 30 league games in by March to accommodate the play-offs means a premature resumption to the season. Standard certainly aren’t ready and they’re by no means the only team who would have liked another two weeks of prep time.
Standard have every right to feel aggrieved at not becoming champions last season thanks to the barely credible play-off system. Of course, as we have argued before, there is no play-off for the title but another (condensed) league campaign. This time around, the argument that the rules concerning the halving of points after 30 games simply does not stand up. While the play-offs guarantee the clubs more games (and in theory more money from ticket sales and television) as well as more games between the top sides and an artifically more exciting title race, it surely cannot have ever been the intention that a team who didn’t take the most points over 40 (30+10) games didn’t become the champion team. The fact such a possibility exists only serves to further undermine the play-offs. We either go back to a league of 16 with 30 games or we have a proper play-off system as exists in the USA and Australasia.
We have seen teams such as Standard almost pinch the title with a late surge and last season Anderlecht came back from the dead, revived by Besnik Hasi. KAA Gent in particular have been a victim of the system their chairman Ivan De Witte was so keen to introduce. Managers have to strike a balance between being in a good position before the points are halved and peaking in the spring. The fact that the regular season has diminished somewhat in importance is reflected in the transfer policies of the league’s leading lights.
And yet that makes it in some ways all the more interesting. Can Anderlecht find the experience they seek? Can Standard bounce back and bring in the players to appease their impatient fans? Will Michel Preud’homme end a decade of hurt at Club Brugge? Can Zulte Waregem and Lokeren continue to gatecrash the big boys’ party? Do Genk have to go backwards to go forwards? Will KAA Gent finally get their act together? Are RMP a club without a soul or can they bring the feel-good factor back to Le Cannonier? Will KV Oostende make a bigger splash and seriously challenge for the top six? All these unanswered questions and we haven’t even mentioned the vanishing spray! There are plenty of reasons to look forward to the upcoming season in Belgium, which kicks off on Friday night with a Walloon derby between Standard and Charleroi. Click on your team’s photo to read our preview of their chances this season.
Bring it on!
RSC Anderlecht Standard Liège
Club Brugge Zulte Waregem
Lokeren Racing Genk
KAA Gent KV Kortrijk
KV Oostende Sporting Charleroi
Cercle Brugge Lierse
KV Mechelen Waasland-Beveren
Westerlo Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz