Jupiler Pro League: It’s going to be a big week for…
European competition can affect teams in profound ways. Zulte Waregem for one will be looking to capitalise on their mid week triumph at Wigan, beating the Championship side they became the first Belgian team since Royal Antwerp in 1975 to beat an English team in England thanks to goals from Thorgan Hazard and Junior Malanda. For other teams, they will look to turn things around after another night of disappointment. It’s going to be a big week for…
Guy Luzon and Standard Liége
The Israeli coaches grip on the league leaders appears to be as flimsy as his side’s grip on the league’s pole position. Coming under heavy criticism for his heavy rotation policy in the league Standard are off the back of 2-1 defeat in Denmark to Esbjerg where they fielded a side laden with changes. Igor De Camargo retained his place in the side for the second match and Reza Ghoochannejhad started up front in place of usual strikers Michy Batshuayi. The whole Standard team was very different to the one that laboured past Mons in the league the weekend before, with Thuram-Ulien starting in goals for the side whose qualification hopes were extinguished in the last round of fixtures.
Standard were booed off the field by their fans having narrowly squeezed past the bottom placed team thanks to a goal from Julien De Sart and their trip to Denmark was unlikely to have whet the fan’s appetites even before the match had kicked off. Standard were confirmed as out of European competition with their limp 3-1 defeat at home to Red Bull Salzburg on a wet and cold Thursday night earlier in the month so the changes to the squad were to be expected this time round.
Tal Ben-Haim had been critical of his countryman’s policies at the club in a recent press conference and went as far to cut short the experience lest he should say anything he regrets. It’s clear to see not everything is rosy in Liége and the side will be tested against a Lierse side fresh off an emphatic 4-2 win against Cercle Brugge last weekend. Whether Luzon will continue with his heavy rotation policy is unknown, despite the protestations of the players in his care, but should the side shoulder aside Lierse on Sunday then it will go a long way to abating the anger of the fans.
John van den Brom
Like many people I am beginning to grow wearisome of the ongoing sage of John van den Brom, Anderlecht and the inconsistent performances. Having failed to inspire against Benfica in the Champions League it feels that van den Brom’s tenure will be coming to an end sooner rather than later, the Dutchman fielded seven noted defenders for the must win match against the Portuguese side and despite being a long way off Champions League quality these days the fans still demand champagne football of the highest quality. That van den Brom couldn’t find any solace in Ajax prevailing against Barcelona with 10 men is another inscription in the lengthening list of his shortcomings.
Despite these issues, and the constant reminders that this season is one of ‘transition’ for the Antwerp club there is still a strong feeling that should Anderlecht turn things around they are capable of sealing another league title this season. Standard’s issues have been discussed above and in plenty of other places while you look at Genk, Zulte-Waregem and Club Brugge and wonder if they have the quality and the experience to see out the tricky play off phase at the end of the season.
The Sunday match with Cercle Brugge is probably the sort of fixture Anderlecht need right now. They were gutless against Sporting Charleroi where they succumbed 2-1 and without a creative spark against Benfica in their midfield of Sacha Klještan, Demy de Zeeuw and Luka Milivojević. Denis Praet has been marooned out on the wing much the chagrin of fans who would love to see him playing in the hole behind the striker. Should Anderlecht lose to Cercle Brugge, or even fail to win, then it could well be game over for van den Brom as Anderlecht look to bring in a coach who can turn the season around, transition or not.
Genk have found themselves flying under the radar. As chaos rains around them at Standard and Anderlecht, and the neutral swoons over Zulte Waregem’s fairy tale story it has been Mario Been’s men who have unassumingly climbed to near the peak of the table. Things unravelled for them in a shocking 4-0 defeat to KV Oostende, an unexplained blip – but only a blip – on their otherwise impeccable season so far.
Having put their surprising defeat behind them with an emphatic come-from-behind 3-1 victory against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, having assured their qualification, it will be immediately back to business for Genk as they take on an OH Leuven side who have put six points between themselves and fifteenth placed Waasland-Beveren who are yet to get firing under Bob Peeters. Genk have lost four games this season, two of them their most recent matches, so it is imperative that Been’s men turn their fortunes around this Sunday.
Things have been tough for Gent lately, but at the moment they are starting to look up. The congestion in the middle of the season is pretty thick meaning a good run of results could see a side push their way into the Play Off 1 mix up and it’s Gent who have managed to win their last two matches. Having struggled to adapt under new manager Mircea Rednick, things have turned around quickly with back to back victories. Admittedly wins against Charleroi and Waasland-Beveren aren’t results to hang your season hat on but with free falling Mechelen up next then the possibility of Gent making it three in a row is greatly increased.
As was discussed earlier, KV Oostende’s 4-0 win over Genk was probably as much a shock to themselves as it was to everybody else in the league. However two wins in a row now means the side from Ostend are looking more and more likely to be in Play Off 2 come the end of the season rather than the Play Off 3 spot everybody assumed they would be occupying. They travel to Club Brugge on Saturday and are unlikely to surprise them as well as they did Genk, that said, they will have the utmost confidence that they can come home with another major scalp.