This week’s Jupiler Pro League campaign sees the eight games divided equally between Saturday and Sunday. It also comes sandwiched between the Champions League and Europa League play-off rounds, with particular importance attached to the former in Brussels.
OH Leuven – RSC Anderlecht
Anderlecht coach John van den Brom has made no bones about fielding a virtual shadow side for this league game as he prioritises Tuesday’s Champions League second-leg play-off against AEL. As a result, the likes of Silvio Proto, Lucas Biglia, Guillame Gillet, Dieumerci Mbokani and Cheikhou Kouyaté are not even in the squad. Juhász Roland comes in for his first start of the season to be partnered by Saudi Arabian international Osama Hawsawi, who more than anyone else has a point to prove this evening. He will want to avoid the bad omen that is Samuel, whose own goal in the corresponding game last year meant he was to quickly discover his number was up. Oli Deschacht and Sasha Iakovenko are also certain to receive a starting spot.
OHL have survived the loss of Jordan Remacle and showed terrific spirit thus far this term, coming from behind to draw with Genk and to beat Cercle Brugge last week. Ronny van Geneugden welcomes back the experienced Icelander Stefan Gislason into midfield for what amounts to a derby for the Leuven-based side. They were the only side to take four points off Anderlecht in the regular season and will not be intimidated – less so against an Anderlecht eleven shorn of so much quality. Ex-Club man Karel Geraerts scored a beauty last week and comes up against another rival of his former employers.
I expect a lot of goals especially as OHL will look to get at a new-look central defensive partnership and fancy themselves against anyone at home.
OH Leuven XI: Bailly, Raymaekers, Weuts, De Roeck, Buysens, van Goethem, Geraerts, Ngolok, Gislason, Ibou, Chuka. Subs: Lenaerts, Thompson, Pouga, Azevedo, Bastiaens, Dehond, Brogno/Boi
Anderlecht XI: Kaminski, Odoi, Juhász, Hawsawi, Deschacht, Kljestan, Praet, Canesin Matos, Iakovenko, De Sutter, Jovanovic. Subs: Roef, Bedi Mbenza, Molins, Safari, Wasyl, Bruno, Vargas
Cercle Brugge – Lierse SK
The televised game abroad this evening pits a Cercle side who have yet to get going against a Lierse team who have proved a tough nut to crack so far this season. Groen-Zwart have just sold Igor Vetokele to FC København and fellow forward Rudy may well join him in the Danish capital. Bob Peeters did a superb job for much of last season but Cercle are still recovering from their failure to make the play-offs. Nuno Reis is missed in Brugge and when I saw their game against Anderlecht, they offered absolutely nothing. That said, they should be doing better with the players available and Mushaga Bakenga on loan from Club Brugge will be chomping at the bit to score goals at this level to impress Georges Leekens.
Lierse are yet to win this campaign but have drawn three of their four matches including impressive points against Standard (having played mostly with 10 men) and Racing Genk (equalising with two minutes of normal time remaining). They may have been foiled in their attempts to sign ex-Anderlecht star Ahmed Hassan but Dolly Menga looks to have adapted very quickly to life under Chris Janssens with his pace and directness. Despite a fair few injuries and the continued suspension of Cofie Bekoe, they have a good chance of getting something out of this encounter.
Beerschot – Charleroi
Adrie Koster has begun slowly with Beerschot but that should not really surprise despite many people tipping De Ratten as their dark horses. They have a new-look side and are once again rebuilding for a tilt at the top six places in the medium term. Koster will point to some bad luck last week such as a foul from Blondel before Club Brugge’s second goal, which enabled the title chasers to retake the lead ; Stijn Wuytens had equalised with a contender for goal of the season and looks a very good acquisition from PSV. All the big guns are there but there is pressure on the Antwerpen side to beat a side many see as among the two weakest in the top flight.
Charleroi were taken to pieces last week in the sweltering heat against Standard in the Walloon derby. It did not help that they went down to ten men and ended up chasing shadows but Ron Jans pointed out that they deliberately targeted the lack of pace les Zèbres have in defence. Add that to a chronic weakness in the air and it does not look promising but les Carolos did manage to win away to Kortrijk and in “Bison” Gnohéré, they have a genuine goal threat.
Kortrijk – Waasland-Beveren
Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men have been inconsistent so far and have failed to build on the promise of their opening-round 1-1 draw with champions Anderlecht and subsequent away win against Cercle. They were well beaten last week in the derby against Zulte Waregem and as I just mentioned, suffered a shock home reverse at the hands of Charleroi. The fixture computer has been kind to De Kerels at first glance, with W-B looking for their first win in the top division. Brecht Capon is still out Thomas Matton, Brecht Dejaegere and Ernst Nfor could pose problems for the visitors.
Life in the Jupiler Pro League has been rather unforgiving for Dirk Geeraerd’s men. It is tough to attract players to relegation favourites and there are players arriving all the time to strengthen the side – Gal Shish and Christophe Lepoint make their bows – the latter eager to reestablish himself after a difficult period at KAA Gent. If W-B can get men forward and create chances, they will have to make the most of their bright periods for as they have found out on numerous occasions, any failure to do so will be punished at this level.