JPL Round 6 Preview: Last year’s top two meet again
Zulte Waregem and Anderlecht took us all the way in last season’s dramatic tussle for the title and they lock horns once again on Sunday evening. Having managed to keep the majority of their first choice eleven at the club (Delaplace is yet to debut for Lille and Franck Berrier has been linked with KV Oostende but remains a very good player despite what some may say!), they have had a solid start to the season, showing that last year’s exploits were no fluke. However, they were given a good game by KV Oostende in the West-Vlaamse derby and on reflection had good reason to be content with a point. Francky Dury has moved to add another striker in Raphaël Caceres from Arles-Avignon and he may not be the final addition before Monday night.Anderlecht qualified automatically for the Champions League and as such their highlight of the week was gathering together on Thursday afternoon to learn their fate. While none of the players or staff got their dream draw, there is a sense that they can build on last season’s campaign and finish in third spot. A lot of attention will be focused on record signing Aleksandar Mitrovic, who finally arrived from Partizan having played in their Europa League defeat to FC Thun on Thursday. He will start on the bench having picked up a slight knock but Anderlecht’s front three of Bruno, Suárez and Acheampong looked irresistible last week so while they need to tighten up at the back, Essevee will have to be just as, if not more wary. Thorgan Hazard could have gone to Anderlecht in the summer…what price him coming up trumps I wonder?
This weekend kicks off with what promises to be the most feverish atmosphere of the weekend in the derby between KV Mechelen and Lierse. Mechelen fans were relieved to finally see their side get the rub of the green last week when they notched up a first win of the campaign in Kortrijk. Mats Rits had been waiting an eternity to find the net again and if he starts to really blossom this season then KVM will more than hold their own. Centreback Sheldon Bateau and Wannes van Tricht, who impressed a lot last year, are both fit. They have a good record against Lierse, winning five of their last six home derbies Achter de Kazerne. Lierse won last week against a lacklustre Waasland-Beveren outfit and didn’t even need to bring the returning Carl Hoefkens off the bench. Arjan Swinkels is out but Hossam Ghaly played well last week and will relish the occasion and Dolly Menga can cause most defenders problems when he’s on his game.
Standard Liège are still yet to put a foot wrong this season as they chase success both at home and in Europe with renewed vigour. Mons were ruthlessly punished last week for some kamikaze defending and KV Kortrijk‘s defence, now boosted by the arrival of Michaël Heylen, who captained Anderlecht u21 to silverware last season. Hein Vanhaezebrouck is a shrewd manager and his acquisition of five-goal striker Ivan Santini has proved a masterstroke thus far. He will be hoping to make his mark at a stadium where fellow countrymen Milan Rapaic, Robert Prosinecki and Vedran Runje starred in the previous decade. As usual, Guy Luzon will rotate his Standardmen but the absence of Yoni Buyens for the next few weeks remains a blow while his partner in crime last season William Vainqueur is nearing full fitness.
Speaking of teams who play in red, Mons have had a difficult start to the campaign with just a point to their name and four straight defeats. Enzo Scifo has been given a not too subtle hint that things need to pick up quickly but with the smallest budget in the top division, it was always going to be tough to repeat last season’s seventh place. It won’t get any easier with a trip to KAA Gent, who have lost just one of their first five and finished much the stronger of the two teams last week when they drew 1-1 at Club Brugge. Yassine El Ghanassy looks to have his head screwed on but at the back, Ervin Zukanovic will be out for two months and Leandro Pirez is suspended so Cesar Arzo and Pau Cendros will have to step up to the plate. Sloan Privat goes straight into the squad after signing from Sochaux.
Elsewhere, Racing Genk, who are Belgium’s third side in the Europa League group stages, travel to Charleroi. David Pollet has once again been impressive for les Zèbres and he is supported by the likes of Mohamed Daf, Danijel Milicevic and Onur Kaya. The down side to that attacking firepower is that they are much less convincing at the back and Genk will be looking to score quickly in order to open Charleroi up even more. Club Brugge are still looking to flex their muscles in the transfer window and nothing less than three points against Waasland-Beveren will be acceptable. The delight of their rivals as they took their place in the various European draws should be motivation enough tomorrow night. Thomas Meunier is in the squad while Eidur Gudjohnsen is on compassionate leave.
Lokeren slipped up last week against OH Leuven but though back in front of their home fans, they come up against a KV Oostende side coming off the back of a draw against Essevee and three new signings this week in Canesin, Jordan Lukaku and Jonathan Wilmet. Look out for KVO striker Nyasha Mushekwi who scored, and shone, on his debut and of course his Lokeren counterpart Hamdi Harbaoui, whose praises we regularly sing. Finally, Cercle Brugge, who narrowly went down to Genk and felt they deserved more, host OH Leuven, boosted by their new Macedonian forward Jovan Kostovski. He will look to provide yet more competition for ex-Belgium forward Marvin Ogunjimi, whose star has fallen rapidly in recent seasons.