Anderlecht coach John van den Brom has gone for experience over youth ahead of the club’s must-win Champions League play-off tie tonight at home to AEL. Despite the calls of many fans, Dennis Praet and Fernando Canesin Matos, who impressed at the weekend against OH Leuven, will have to make do with a place on the bench. The major surprise has to be the non-selection of Sasha Iakovenko in the starting eleven as the Ukrainian had been widely expected to replace the suspended Milan Jovanovic. Sacha Kljestan retains his spot in midfield and as had been rumoured beforehand, veteran Oli Deschacht is preferred to Behrang Safari at left-back. Anderlecht stalwart Juhász Roland had been hoping to win his way back into the first-choice eleven after his runout at the weekend but it’s the firebrand Wasyl who partners Kouyaté at the back. Dieumerci Mbokani returns to rekindle his successful strike partnership with Tom De Sutter.
This selection seems to smack of negativity at first glance with the likes of Kljestan and Gillet preferred to Canesin or Praet, especially since Anderlecht are playing inferior opposition on paper at home. It is a side though picked bearing in mind the sheer importance of the occasion. Anderlecht stand to earn around €15 million from qualification – they have not reached the group stage of the Champions League since 2006-07, which is evidently not good enough for a club of their stature.
Anderlecht: Proto ; Odoi, Wasyl, Kouyaté, Deschacht ; Gillet, Biglia (c), Kljestan, Kanu ; Mbokani, De Sutter. Subs: Kaminski, Safari, Juhász, Bruno, Praet, Canesin, Iakovenko
AEL: Degra, Dosa Junior, Nikolaou (c), Marcos Airosa, Carlitos, Ouon, Monteiro, Rui Miguel, Edmar, Dédé, Vouho. Subs: Hidi, Maykon, Parpas, Gilberto, Orlando Sá, Konstantinou, Dickson