JPL Round 8 Preview: Fernández under pressure at Gent
One Spanish coach has left the Jupiler Pro League this week and another’s future is certainly under consideration, if far from hanging in the balance just yet. Club Brugge upped the ante when they harshly fired Juan Carlos Garrido to finally bring Michel Preud’homme in, two years after their first attempt. That Garrido could lose his job despite an unbeaten start to the season is alarming on one level and the pressure on his compatriot Victor Fernández will skyrocket should KAA Gent fail to put KV Oostende away this evening.
Although Fernández could do nothing to prevent the record sale of Mboyo to Racing Genk, he has been given more backing in the transfer market than any of his predecessors. Throw in the need to bring European football to the wonderful new Ghelamco Arena and a season of major underachievement last time around and you have an idea of why the experienced Spaniard needs to inspire an upturn in fortunes before too long. It’s not easy to integrate a number of new players into the starting eleven and be competitive at the top end of the league, especially with the extra financial muscle of the big three and the relative stability of interlopers Lokeren and Zulte Waregem.
In Fernández’s favour is that he has an array of talent, particularly in midfield and attack and almost everyone is fit, with the notable exceptions of Ervin Zukanovic and Bernd Thijs. KVO also looked very vulnerable at the back during last week’s 2-4 home defeat to Standard but their striker Laurent Depoitre will carry a threat to the home side’s centrebacks. De Kustboys might have made a number of high profile acquisitions but they sit bottom and will want to avoid being cut adrift.
Gent also have the “advantage” of not having to play in Europe and from this weekend on, we’ll have an idea of just how well the top teams can cope with playing in three competitions – the group stage proper constituting a step up from the qualifiers. Michel Preud’homme has said that Club Brugge hope to benefit from their freshness against Anderlecht tomorrow afternoon and that’s a game we’ll be taking a more detailed look at tomorrow. Racing Genk produced the best result of all the Belgian teams in midweek with a stunning 0-1 win away to Dynamo Kyiv but will be wary ahead of a trip to Waasland-Beveren as they deal with the euphoria of the win and the potential of another banana skin à la the away game in Charleroi in which they dropped two points. Mboyo will be out with a minor hamstring injury but Jelle Vossen was superb last week in the win over Zulte Waregem.
Guy Luzon’s rotation system has become an easy target for the critics after the home defeat in Europe but Standard Liège had been faultless until then. The Israeli may have reason to tone it down a touch but he has a lot of good players at his disposal and heavy fixture congestion to deal with. Les Rouches face a stiff test tomorrow at home to third placed Lokeren, who are once again showing they can mix it at the top end of the table. Nobody has scored more goals this season than Hamdi Harbaoui and the Tunisian forward has four goals in his previous four games against Standard. The home side will be without Bulot and De Camargo but Mehdi Carcela is fit and is in contention to start on the wing.
Zulte Waregem were unable to break a determined Wigan down on Thursday night but goals haven’t been too hard to come by with almost two a game so far in the league this season. One bonus for Essevee is that they’ll be back home in Waregem for their clash with OH Leuven, who are a much tighter unit than twelve months ago. Ronny van Geneugden had wanted to focus more on defence last season but the likes of Ibou and Chuka meant that the emphasis had to be placed more on going forward.
Kortrijk are full of confidence after last week’s win in Gent. Much has been made of Ivan Santini’s goalscoring form but Elimane Coulibaly was outstanding against his parent club. He has recovered from injury but new midfielder Pavlovic is also a doubt for the trip to Lierse. The league looks to be splitting in half and De Kerels are hanging on to the coattails of the top sides but Lierse welcome back Hernan Losada and Tony Watt is included in the squad for the first time. Mons coach Enzo Scifo believes the players and the club still have faith in him and they travel to an underachieving KV Mechelen tonight. There were some signs of improvement for Scifo even though they failed to hold on last week. Steve Beleck is available before he has to serve a suspension. In the final game, Charleroi host Cercle Brugge. The stadium work is far from being finished with only the one stand covered. Les Zèbres coach Felice Mazzu won’t have to motivate his players as they look for a first home win as they have vowed to win tonight for Mourad Satli, who lost his father this week.