Lokeren – Club Brugge: Peter Maes out to impress once more
Lokeren coach Peter Maes is one of the best pound-for-pound coaches in the Jupiler Pro League. While he may not have as much cause to complain about a lack of financial resources as compatriots Enzo Scifo at Mons or Hein Vanhaezebrouck at Kortrijk, he may well take an envious glance at what his opposite number tonight Juan Carlos Garrido can do this summer. He is also one of just two Belgians taking charge of teams in the top six and in the past he has been vocal in his views that homegrown bosses should get more of a chance.
Tonight he takes charge of Sporting in their first home game of these play-offs against a wounded Club Brugge. His side have the least pressure upon their shoulders and earned a very creditable 1-1 draw away to Zulte Waregem last Saturday. As ever, Lokeren may not have dominated the game in the traditional sense and played in the opponent’s half but they proved to be extremely resolute and difficult to put away. Even when they limped towards the play-offs, they managed to avoid defeat and are seven games unbeaten.
Having welcomed back Copa and Jérémy Taravel in recent weeks, they look even more robust at the back. Walter Fernandez will give them another option in attack and he has shown enough since his January move from Videoton to suggest he could have a more sustained impact. However, Lokeren’s success is built on the shrewdness of their coach Maes, whose style may be unfairly cast as being defensive or even dour in contrast to some of the foreign coaches, who are very much in vogue at the moment. Maes is canny enough to know that his side are able to punch above their weight when they box clever tactically and do not overstretch themselves but they must not become too reliant on set-pieces.
Juan Carlos Garrido arrived in Brugge earlier this season as the eighth man to attempt to replicate the success of Trond Sollied and as another member of the ever-increasing band of Spaniards in Belgium (especially in Brugge and Gent). The ex-Villarreal boss has understandably needed time to adapt to a new country, league and style of football but he is beginning to arrive at his best eleven, contentious though some of his choices (Donk in midfield, De Bock, even the use of Gudjohnsen) remain.
His tenure so far has seen some thrashings handed out to meagre opposition (6-2 v Waasland-Beveren), (7-1 v Beerschot), some disappointments (the heavy defeat to Genk) and some very encouraging signs (2-2 v Anderlecht) – although the positivies of the Anderlecht game were somewhat cancelled out not just by the mere fact of Paarswit’s comeback but Garrido’s substitutions. The most deflating result thus far though has been Monday’s 0-2 defeat at home to Standard Liège, which few people outside of Paul-José Mpoku saw coming.
In fairness, it was the Spaniard’s first home defeat in 16 games, in which he has taken a nominal 32 points (compared to 22 in 14 under Georges Leekens). However, the insipid manner of the loss does not bode well for a club, who having been touted as the team to watch, are bottom of PO1 after the first week. Returning to Garrido’s ability to change the game from the bench, his triple change did nothing to alter the pattern of the game – indeed nothing did more to shape the course of events than Carlos Bacca striking the post early on. It set the tone for a miserable day for all associated with Blauw-Zwart.
Victor Vázquez is suspended tonight and Eidur Gudjohnsen should come in. He is far too good a player to be used as an impact sub in the second half and though he was the furthest man forward for Cercle, in his later years we have seen that the Icelandic veteran is just as adept even in a midfield role. I stubbornly refuse to admit that Ryan Donk should be anywhere other than at centre-half and a potential partnership with Oscar Duarte looks the way to go. Koen Persoons and Killian Overmeire will fancy their chances of emulating the success of Yoni Buyens and William Vainqueur in the previous match.
Lokeren have taken four points off Club this season and have little to lose at home. Club Brugge cannot afford to lose more ground to Genk even if Standard might do them a favour tomorrow against Anderlecht. Maes has been linked with Club Brugge before and had things turned out differently, he may have been occupying the visitors’ bench tonight. He’ll be eager to impress tonight and show Mannaert and Verhaeghe what might have been.