The Walloon derby headlines the weekends fixtures
Sporting Charleroi v Standard Liége
The two biggest matches from this weekends set of fixtures are both arguably being played on the Saturday and affect opposite ends of the table.
Walloon derby is always a fiery affair and it pairs two teams who are heading in markedly different directions. While the disliking between Walloon and Flanders is as strong as ever, there is never any love lost when Sporting Charleroi and Standard Liége play.
While both their meetings last season saw Standard win heavily, scoring six goals in each game, their meeting earlier this season was markedly different. Both teams played out a 2-2 draw and it was a 90th minute equaliser from Imoh Ezekiel that rescued a point for the home team. The goal was originally credited to Michy Batshuayi who had got the initial touch, and despite him celebrating as if he had scored replays showed that the final touch had come off his striker partner Ezekiel and the Nigerian was thus awarded the goal.
The style of the match was rather interesting, or at least the method of the goals was. Standard are a potent counter attacking team with the pace of Batshuayi, Ezekiel and widemen Paul-José Mpoku and Geoffrey Mujangi Bia well known it was surprising to see both their goals come from headers off crossing situations.
David Pollet had given Charleroi the lead with a headed goal and until after the hour mark it looked like Charleroi might be good for the three points. Jelle Van Damme then converted a Frederic Bulot corner and his frenzied celebration in front of the home fans displayed the captains love for the club and the scores were equal.
After a failed clearance from Eiji Kawashima, one of a few such moments during a tough spell for the Japanese goalkeeper, Sébastien Dewaest hit a left footed volley through myriad of legs and found the back of the net and with ten minutes left to play had probably thought he had scored a massive victory for the side.
However after an in-swinging cross from Ronnie Stam on the Standard right wing, Batshuayi got the initial touch which then hit Ezekiel and past Mandanda in the Charleroi goal for a crucial equaliser.
Since that match both teams have gone in very different trajectories. Standard, despite nearly losing here have in fact only been beaten once all season and go into the match with Charleroi on the back of a ten point advantage over nearest rivals Club Brugge.
Charleroi, meanwhile have sold their most potent assets. Pollet, who opened the scoring in this reverse fixture has been sold to Anderlecht, and attacking players Onur Kaya and Danijel Miličević have left for top six hopefuls Lokeren and Gent respectively leaving Charleroi hopelessly underpowered.
Matches like this are never easy to pick, the occasion can often change how the matches are played but with Standard having lost only one game all season and Charleroi having lost their last three in a row it’s hard to see any result except for a Standard victory in the Walloon Derby.
Waasland-Beveren v OH Leuven
The second biggest match of the weekend is arguably as close to a relegation decider you can get in Belgium’s convoluted play off system.
Mons look dead and buried. Not only have the wheels come off, but the doors have fell out too and the engine has gone up in flames quicker than a chip pan fire. At the end of the season they will enter a best of five play off against whichever team finishes fifteenth – currently Waasland-Beveren – with the loser of the play off relegated and the winner playing three teams from the second division in another round robin play off.
As said, it is very complicated and the easiest route for either Waasland-Beveren or OH Leuven, who face off this weekend, is just to hope they don’t get involved in it at all. With Cercle Brugge, LierseSK and KV Oostende getting some advantageous results and Sporting Charleroi and KV Mechelen with perhaps just enough about them to stay out of the bottom two it looks like it could be a straight battle between this weekends competitors.
Most analysts expected a bit more from Waasland-Beveren this season but have been left wanting from a lack of goals from Róbert Demjan and Ivan Tričkovski who have just two goals between them. Dalibor Veselinović has been better managing to score seven in 22 games but after him their next top goal scorer is midfielder Robin Henkens with three and then their defender Siebe Blondelle with two. This all ties in with Waasland-Beveren having the second worst goal scoring record in the league having managed just 22 goals in 25 games. Should they fail to find then net against OH Leuven then a fifteenth place finish can not be argued with.
For OH Leuven it has been a mix of an inability to find the net with regularity and a difficulty in keeping the ball out of their own net that has seen them struggle. A surprise 1-0 win over Zulte Waregem is the only goal they have scored in their last four matches. For both teams they will be eyeing their opponents as the ideal opportunity to rectify their goal scoring problems.
Last time the teams met it was surprisingly full of goals. OH Leuven ran out 4-2 winners on that occasion as their snarling striker Bjorn Ruytinx managed to score two as well as a strike from Evariste Ngolok and an own goal from Mijuško Bojović meant Miloš Marić’s and Fayçal Lebbihi’s goals were not enough for Waasland-Beveren.
This time the teams will meet at the Freethiel-Stadion, Waasland-Beveren’s home, and with matches with Genk, Zulte Waregem, Lokeren and Standard immediately following OH Leuven a defeat here could all but seal Waasland-Beveren’s appearance in the relegation play off with current rode lantaarn Mons who nine points adrift of fifteenth.
Full Fixture List
Friday Club Brugge – Kortrijk
Saturday Sporting Charleroi – Standard Liége
Saturday Zulte-Waregem – Cercle Brugge
Saturday KV Mechelen – KV Oostende
Saturday Lierse SK – Racing Genk
Saturday Waasland-Beveren – OH Leuven
Sunday KAA Gent – Sporting Lokeren
Sunday Anderlecht – Mons