Club Brugge v Anderlecht
In the build up to this game, Anderlecht coach John van den Brom has talked of killing off Club Brugge’s faint title hopes for good, presumably with the same sort of ruthlessness that led the league leaders to win the reverse fixture 6-1 in Brussels. An away victory would open up a 21 point gap, which even after the points from the regular season are halved before PO1, would appear insurmountable.
It appears insurmountable because this Anderlecht side have shown few signs of coming off the rails. They held on for a point with nine men against Standard, showed further resilience to come from behind in Beveren and enjoyed a leisurely walk in Astrid Park last Friday night in beating Charleroi 2-0. Kanu is off to Terek Grozny to join another ex-Mauve Jonathan Legear but the plug has been pulled on Matias Suarez’s move to CSKA Moscow and he should return in a few weeks.
Cheikhou Kouyaté and Bram Nuytinck don’t quite look as impregnable as before and they will no doubt face a stern test against the crafty Eidur Gudjohnsen and the league’s top scorer Carlos Baccca, who should have had a couple last week against Lokeren. Vladan Kujovic had to make a couple of smart stops at the end to deny Lokeren a winner – he’ll be hoping for a better time of it today than fellow Club goalkeeper Bojan Jorgacevic had back in November in Brussels.
There were a fair few positives for Garrido to take from last week – Gudjohnsen began upfront with Bacca and Lestienne wide of him – and Club played particularly well in the opening 45 minutes. Ryan Donk was back in defence, though this is not set in stone and Victor Vázquez, who scored a lovely goal, is enjoying his best spell in Blauw-Zwart. Consistency of selection and performance is a worry for Garrido but now that the Spaniard has signed a new deal taking him until 2014, things may finally settle down.
Should Lucas Biglia once again exercise the kind of control he has had in midfield, it will be difficult for Club Brugge to stop the champions. Massimo Bruno looks a rejuvenated figure and the expected competition from Suarez will help drive his game on. Only Milan Jovanovic is missing as he serves the final game of his suspension and Ronald Vargas should feature at some point against his former club. Another player to turn out for both clubs – Meme Tchité – is not even in Garrido’s squad.
Team News: Garrido has picked a noticeably more cautious starting eleven against Anderlecht, as he did for the home clash with KAA Gent. Gudjohnsen drops to the bench with Bacca the central striker, Donk is restored to a midfield three with Vadis and Vázquez meaning Jim Larsen partners Oscar Duarte at the back. Anderlecht have their strongest side out on the park with the exception of Jovanovic – supersub Sasha Iakovenko takes his spot on the left flank ahead of Vargas, who is on the bench.
Club Brugge: Kujovic – Høgli, Duarte, Larsen, Stenman – Donk, Vadis, Vázquez – Refaelov, Bacca, Lestienne
Subs: Jorgacevic, Hoefkens, De Bock, Adu, Jørgensen, Trickovski, Gudjohnsen
Anderlecht: Proto – Gillet, Kouyaté, Nuytinck, Deschacht – Biglia, Kljestan – Bruno, Praet, Iakovenko – Mbokani
Subs: Kaminski, Odoi, Safari, De Zeeuw, Vargas, Armenteros, De Sutter
Standard Liège v Racing Genk
A second pitch inspection has passed the Sclessin turf fit to host this clash between two clubs who will still harbour hopes of a Champions League spot despite Zulte Waregem showing no signs of flagging. The reverse game between these two was Mircea Rednic’s first game in charge of les Rouches and to the surprise of many, led them to a 0-2 away win in the Cristal Arena.
Although just two points separate these sides and they are both two of the league’s form sides, they have had markedly different seasons. Standard were 10th when Rednic returned to the club where he played for five years and have temporarily occupied third place while Genk have been there or thereabouts in the chasing pack but lacking the consistency to seriously challenge Anderlecht.
Despite home advantage, Standard’s task is made all the more difficult with the absence of stellar midfielder William Vainqueur. They struggled badly when he missed the home defeat to Mons and while Rednic has earmarked one of Ajdarevic, Cristea or Bulot to step into the Frenchman’s shoes, Jelle van Damme seems to be to be the best replacement at Standard’s disposal. Either way, Yoni Buyens will have to step his game up considerably.
Genk showed no signs of a hangover from their deserved Europa League exit with a 2-0 home win over goal-shy Kortrijk. Jelle Vossen is a major doubt and though he has returned to training, recent experience tells us Mario Been would be better off saving his prized asset for next week’s Belgian Cup semi-final second leg against Anderlecht. Glynor Plet continues to defy his critics and he will fancy his chances after a shaky performance from Laurent Ciman last time around against Cercle.
Standard have shown a worrying tendency to dominate the ball of late without being able to prise a team open easily. Cristea should be the ideal candidate to take on this brief but Standard’s recent influx of new signings need more time to get their feet under the table. Genk have built a good squad but have an infuriating tendency to let leads slip and not be able to strangle their opponents while on top in games – should Khaleem Hyland continue his recent form, he may well tip the balance in the visitors’ favour.