JPL Preview: Club Brugge – Anderlecht
Vive la révolution? Not quite yet as Club Brugge’s “saviour” (as Michel Preud’homme was called by one fan who greeted him at Oostende-Brugge airport yesterday) will only take charge as of tomorrow, having not had time to take any training sessions. Expectations are high and rightly so with his excellent track record but despite the ruthless (some say ruthlessly efficient) manner in which the transition from Juan Carlos Garrido was carried out, there’s a feeling of satisfaction among the Club hierarchy, a feeling of “We’ve got our man…at last.” Preud’homme takes up the story himself:
“I’ve finally ended up at Club Brugge. The first contact wasn’t made yesterday or the day before. They already contacted me two years ago but it wasn’t possible then for a multitude of reasons. Bridges were never burned and the channels of communication with Club always remained open,” he told the club’s official website.
Some of the speculation on the exact reasons for Preud’homme’s desire to return home has not been journalism’s finest hour but it’s not exactly controversial to say that his time in Saudi Arabia took a heavy toll on the family. He had always been up front about the fact that he willingly moved to Al-Shabab in order to earn a great deal more money than any team in the Benelux could offer him. Although he also enjoyed being away from the hothouse of European football, he’s very much glad to be back and is looking forward to taking up the challenge. Despite not taking charge today, he’s already held talks with Vincent Mannaert and Bart Verhaeghe over the direction he wants to take the team in. As for whether he’s the man to finally replicate the success Trond Sollied brought to the Jan Breydelstadion:
“I don’t think that I’m better than the others. I’ll do my best to come up with the solutions. I pledge to work hard and to get the maximum out of the group but I’m not promising anything at this stage.”
Eight years without the championship is too long for a club of this size but as Standard showed, no team has a right to lift the league title ; that’s not to say that Blauw-Zwart will suffer a 25-year drought..
It’s a strange backdrop to the game but nothing unusual given some of the chaos we have come to love in the Pro League. Assistant coach Philippe Clement admitted that he was surprised at the sacking of Garrido, whose family had settled in really well in Belgium. The players aren’t all on the same page as is to be expected but a number took the time to contact the ousted Spaniard and express their regret at the course of events.
For all that’s taken place in Brugge this week, it’s not exactly been a bed of roses for the Belgian champions Anderlecht. They were brought crashing down to earth by Benfica on Tuesday night, doing well to lose 2-0 in Lisbon due not to the excellence of their opponents but their own ineptitude. In the inevitable post-mortem, Demy De Zeeuw publicly clashed with coach John van den Brom. De Zeeuw put the shambles down to the tactics employed whereas his master said too many players underperformed. The truth is somewhere in between the two but in kissing and making up with his compatriot, the ex-AZ midfielder was told that there’s no room for being quiet in the dressing room and then shooting the mouth off in public. It’s too tempting not to add “after such a substandard individual display.”
This is a fixture that didn’t disappoint us last season. Coincidentally, the first of last season’s four meetings also took place in the interregnum period (between Garrido and Leekens on that occasion). Anderlecht’s thumping 6-1 win at the Constant Vanden Stock will live long in the memory but ironically, the most striking game was not the one-sided scoreline but the character building performance of Maxime Lestienne. Even with his team’s backs against the wall, the youngster stood up to be counted and having started the season out of the team, flourished to become the league’s outstanding player of the campaign.
Emotions run high and tempers are often short in games between these two and the next three meetings saw four red cards. Samuel Armenteros (whose stock fell as quickly as it rose) rescued a point last February in the Jan Breydel after Anderlecht had gone 2-0 down (in part thanks to Nzolo giving an offside goal when he didn’t actually know what had happened). In the play-offs, Club Brugge played arguably their best 45 minutes under Garrido in Brussels only to wilt away in the second half and draw 1-1 before Anderlecht’s penalty curse stuck late on in the return PO1 game in Brugge – Dieumerci Mbokani missed from the spot in stoppage time. Lestienne had unsurprisingly stolen the show.
Club Brugge are unbeaten this season in the league but many are wondering just quite how after a series of average-at-best displays. The players should be busting a gut to impress their new coach and Tom De Sutter, who scored a brace last week, needs to impress against his former side as Gudjohnsen and Tchité will be back in favour and Fatai is in the squad for the first time. Anderlecht have the best attack in the league, with 26 goals in just seven matches. Despite resisting the criticism of his tactics in midweek, van den Brom should play to his side’s strengths, recall Acheampong and partner Suárez with Mitrovic. I’ll leave the predictions to our betting guru Bjorn but here’s hoping that the game is the perfect end to what’s been an eventful seven days for both Club Brugge and Anderlecht.
Club Brugge: Ryan ; Meunier, Mechele, Engels, Høgli ; Simons, Vadis, Jørgensen ; Sobota, De Sutter, Lestienne
Subs: Kujovic, Bolingoli, Duarte, Adu, Refaelov, Gudjohnsen, Fatai
Anderlecht: Proto ; Gillet, Kouyaté, Mbemba, N’Sakala ; Bruno, Milivojevic, Kljestan, Acheampong ; Suárez, Mitrovic
Subs: Kaminski, Deschacht, Nuytinck, Tielemans, De Zeeuw, Praet, Cyriac