I will be saying a lot more on the shock resignation of Charleroi boss Yannick Ferrera in the days to come but for the moment, it is sufficient to say that the news hardly constitutes ideal preparation for the last side to defeat Anderlecht in the league. That Saturday evening in Hainaut was perhaps the best thing to happen to John van den Brom in a tenure that is still very much in its infancy. It was not a mere shock to the system but a minor earthquake.
Since then, only Milan have defeated Anderlecht, in which there is no great shame. And the intervening period between the two Charleroi games has borne witness to a marked improvement in the style of the team and the quality of their football. Youngsters Bram Nuytinck, Dennis Praet and Massimo Bruno have added a much-needed youthful impulse but they are by no means the sole factors behind this trend. However, since the winter break things have become less straightforward for Paarswit.
The results are still excellent but recent games have seen them needing to grind out results to a greater extent. This is not normally a bad thing but perhaps it does not bode well for the health of the league as a whole that Anderlecht are nevertheless eight points clear with a handful of regular season games remaining. Furthermore, van den Brom’s mission has been not only to maintain Anderlecht’s position at the top domestically but to give the club a sense of credibility in Europe and to distance his sides from what many saw as Ariël Jacobs’ stodgy underachievement.
Last week was an interesting insight into the importance of two of the leading midfield lights in Belgium as the absences of Standard’s William Vainqueur and Anderlecht’s Lucas Biglia were keenly felt. In my view, it is fashionable to underrate the Argentine, who has stayed in Brussels a lot longer than expected for a variety of reasons. The club’s hard stance of any potential transfer is beginning to thaw but what has never been in doubt is how criticial the captain is in knitting the midfield together – his presence in the eleven makes otherwise decent players raise their games.
There were a few murmurings of discontent at the decision to omit Dennis Praet from the starting line-up but as with so many Belgians, expectations must be tempered for the sake of the players themselves. Praet is still just 18 years old and playing his first full season of first-team football. He cannot be expected to produce masterpieces on a weekly basis and he is still not the finished article physically. It was therefore a clever piece of management from van den Brom to remove his biggest prospect from the firing line ; the hard-won three points last weekend clearly helping to vindicate the Dutchman’s choice.
Charleroi are understandably still reeling from the Ferrera news, with the club quick to express their “amazement” at the resignation. It was only a few days ago that Ferrera was triumphantly celebrating les Zèbres’ win over Lierse and it was even more recently that he was appearing on VRT’s flagship football show Extra Time. And tonight will be about celebration – Dieumerci Mbokani will be presented with the Golden Shoe in front of his adoring supporters having been in South Africa on the gala night itself. Charleroi have taken pride in defying the odds and the pundits this season but it’s difficult to see them spoiling the Anderlecht party tonight.
Luka Peruzovic begins his fifth spell in charge of Charleroi, appropriately against a club for who he was a superb defender for six years before becoming Johan Boskamp’s predecessor as coach. He has named two players on loan from tonight’s opponents in the starting XI – Cristophe Diandy and Ziguy Badibanga, who has come with the oft-used line in these circumstances that the players are playing for their former boss.
Anderlecht: Proto ; Gillet, Kouyaté, Nuytinck, Deschcht ; Biglia, Kljestan ; Bruno, Praet, Vargas ; Mbokani.
Subs: Kaminski, De Zeeuw, Odoi, Kanu, Iakovenko, Safari, De Sutter
Charleroi: Sifakis ; Ohayon, Bojovic, Javi Martos, N’Ganga ; Diandy, Kumedor ; Badibanga, Kaya, Milicevic ; Pollet
Subs: Mandanda, Dzinic, Satli, François, Ederson, Houdret, Escoe
You can watch this game live here, courtesy of The Belgian Waffle: http://t.co/H0vd0hg9 (restrictions according to your country will apply).