Jupiler Pro League News round-up – 22 March

Today begins a new daily series of news round-ups in English featuring the most important new developments in Belgian football.  It goes without saying that there is a plethora of sources in French and Dutch but not English . Therefore I decided to create this new feature in order to make this wonderful if often over-looked competition slightly more accessible to a wider audience.

Play-off draw announced – Anderlecht to open up against Kortrijk with “El Clasico” on the final day

The Jupiler Pro League revealed the fixture list for the upcoming play-offs, which will get underway on the 30 March with a clash between Club Brugge and reigning champions Racing Genk. The most exciting game in Play Off 1 looks to be Standard Liège’s trip to KAA Gent, while Anderlecht begin with a home match against outsiders KV Kortrijk who are aiming to show they are not just there merely to make up the numbers.  The top two – Anderlecht and Club – meet first on 22 April at the Jan Breydelstadion before the return game on 6 May in Brussels, which could potentially be the title decider, though there will be two rounds of fixtures subsequently. On that final day, Anderlecht host les Rouches from Liège. If history repeats itself from last year, one of the favourites could find themselves having to hold off a dramatic late charge from Standard at the last ; admittedly this is an extremely unlikely scenario.

As a reminder, due to the format of the play-offs, Anderlecht go in with just a three-point lead over Club Brugge with Gent six points back and Standard eight. Genk and Kortrijk, who both start with 23, must make up eleven points on les Mauves.

The schedule was also released for both Play-Offs 2 and 3, the latter being somewhat comically known as the “play-downs” sounding rather like American football.  It will be interesting to see whether Cercle Brugge can pick themselves up from their huge disappointment in being denied a Play-Off 1 spot thanks to a final day defeat in Lokeren. Their final game at home to KV Mechelen may well be crucial.

Belgian cup final – Kortijk coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck says it could be a fantastic week for De Kerels

It is fair to say that for the casual observer, this year’s Codifis Cup final holds less interest than might normally be expected with the absence of the big guns from Saturday’s final in the national stadium. However, for Lokeren and Kortrijk fans it promises to be a memorable day out and both sides will be going all out not just for the glory of a rare trophy but the chance to play in Europe next season. Kortrijk coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck is looking forward to the club’s maiden cup final, telling Sporza:

“It could become a fantastic week for Kortrijk. A unique one in our history. Indeed it already is due to the cup final alone as we have never played in one before. If we could now go on to win the trophy as well, it would surpass everything else.

“I knew we would make Play-Off 1 as well as the cup final because we could rotate the squad and keep the players fresh.

Standard Liège – J-F De Sart admits the club could not turn off big offers for Bolat and Tchité

Standard Liège sporting director Jean-François De Sart took part in a webchat with fans on the website of La Dernière Heure. Most notably, he admitted that the club would be powerless to turn down a considerable offer for star players Sinan Bolat and Meme Tchité, who have both been linked with moves away in the summer:

“It’s too early to talk about (them leaving). It is not because someone says that they will leave that the transfer will take place. If a club arrives with a lot of money, we will not be able to refuse.”

And on the subject of those potentially coming in, in response to a question about whether the club should invest more heavily, he said the following:

“The first thing we look at with a new transfer is the technical and sporting qualities (of the player). A player is not (necessarily) good if he is expensive. There is always a financial analysis of the fee.”

Club Brugge – new contracts for promising youngsters Jimmy De Jonghe and Thomas Meunier

Blauw-Zwart have moved to secure the signature of two of their brightest prospects in wide attacker Thomas Meunier and fill-in left-back Jimmy De Jonghe. Meunier has made 26 appearances in the league this term, scoring three times and has impressed since joining from Virton and choosing Club Brugge over several other interested suitors. He has signed on the dotted line until 2016, as has De Jonghe, who has benefited from the unfortunate absence of Swedish defender Fredrik Stenman – the unfortunate victim of two long-term injuries.

KAA Gent –  captain Cesar Arzo looks set to be fit for the start of the play-offs

The official website of the Buffalo’s has some good news on the injury front. The shoulder injury of club captain César Arzo, who went off against Racing Genk, is less serious than first feared. He was able to do some exercise and he should be fully fit for the game against Standard on the 30th. Key midfield duo Bernd Thijs and Christian Brüls missed training but should return soon enough.  Trond Sollied is also without Ilonbé Mboyo, Yassine El Ghanassy, Christophe Lepoint and Yaya Soumahoro among others for the time being.

Eden Hazard – Vincent Kompany forced to clarify his comments on the Lille and Belgium star

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has moved swiftly to clarify his remarks over his international team-mate Eden Hazard. The former Anderlecht defender claimed that his quotes had been mistranslated by British newspaper the Daily Mail, who stated that Kompany believed the Lille star was not quite at the level of David Silva.

“My opinion on Eden Hazard is, that he can play in any top team in the world, today or tomorrow as he is an incredibly gifted player…,” he insisted.

Hazard was scouted recently by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and his assistant David Platt. The gifted Belgian was also named the highest paid player in Ligue 1 by France Football with a reported salary of €5.5m a year.

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