Aug 23

Contenders for Belgium’s next squad

Marc Wilmots - will announce squad on Thursday (August 27)

Marc Wilmots – will announce squad on Thursday (August 27)

Marc Wilmots is due to announce his squad for the matches with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus in early September. I don’t expect many surprises as it’s early in the season and no-one has had a chance to stake a claim. Wilmots will probably stick with his usual squad except for one or two injuries. It must however be a slight concern that some players have yet to play for their clubs in the Premier League (Fellaini, Origi, Denayer) and some leagues (Italy, Spain, France) have just started their competitions.

Here’s the way I see the squad being formed.


Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit Saint-Pétersbourg), Vincent Kompany & Jason Denayer (Manchester City), Toby Alderweireld & Jan Vertonghen (Spurs), Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma), Moussa Dembélé & Nacer Chadli (Spurs), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Divock Origi & Christian Benteke (Liverpool),

Jean-François Gillet (KV Mechelen), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Laurens De Bock (Club Brugge), Olivier Deschacht (Anderlecht), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Guillaume Gillet (Anderlecht)

Matz Sels (Gent), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Youri Tielemans & Steven Defour (all Anderlecht), Thorgan Hazard (Mönchengladbach), Michy Batshuayi (Marseille).

Not in with a shout
Dennis Praet and Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Maxime Lestienne (PSV), Zakaria Bakkali (Valencia), Charly Musonda Jr (Chelsea),

Aug 16

Belgian young guns challenging for places at the Euros

There have never been so many Belgians in the Premier League. It’s a boom time but the 2016 Euros are fast approaching and young guns in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain – and even in the Premier League itself – will be battling for a place in Marc Wilmots’ squad.

Youri Tielemans warms up before the kick-off against Arsenal.

Youri Tielemans warms up before the kick-off against Arsenal.

Wilmots has been notoriously loyal to his players, too loyal in some cases. An example in point was the omission of Radja Nainggolan from the World Cup squad last summer. But the competition for places has never been so intense. The areas where established Premier League players will feel the most pressure are in midfield and on the wing. Let’s have a look at the situation in those areas.

Midfield options

In midfield, the spotlight will be on Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Thorgan Hazard (22) and Anderlecht’s Youri Tielemans (18). Both players can bring some extra creativity to the Belgian squad. The younger Hazard – at 22 he’s probably a little old to be called a ‘young gun’ – has been given the no. 10 shirt at Mönchengladbach but he needs to firmly cement his place in the side before he thinks about joining up with the more famous Eden. His move to Mönchengladbach has been made ‘permanent’ and he’s certainly been toughened up in the Bundesliga. He’s already achieved much more than I thought he would do. He’s not a copy of the Chelsea man and I see him as more of a central midfield player, rather like Kevin De Bruyne at Wolfsburg.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is ready. (John Chapman copyright).

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is ready. (John Chapman copyright).

As for Tielemans, he’s talented and a good season for Anderlecht might just see him make the squad for the Euros even if it is just for the experience. First though, Anderlecht need to decide on their best side and how Tielemans fits into it. Tielemans has not received the no. 10 shirt at Anderlecht as that went to Dennis Praet. It would be no surprise to me if Praet moved on but I feel he’d struggle in a bigger league. Tielemans, however, is still only 18 and has already played over 80 games for Anderlecht. He’s more likely than Praet to make the international grade and to make the squad for the 2018 World Cup. Playing in Belgium won’t help his cause but the boy has time on his side.
The player most under pressure is Spurs’ Moussa Dembélé. Of the established midfield players, Dembélé was the one who achieved the least last season. He had a relatively poor time with Spurs and is far from the player who Martin Jol once described as “probably the best no. 10 in the Premier League”.

Wide players

Looking at the wide players, the pressure on the established men is coming from Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. Aged 21, he’s another one of the squad who has never played in the Belgian League. He made his debut for Monaco a couple of years ago and established himself in the first team last season. He did enough to gain a move to Spain and he has already played three games for Belgium. Ferreira Carrasco is already in the squad and is likely to stay there.

Divock Origi needs playing time. (John Chapman copyright).

Divock Origi needs playing time. (John Chapman copyright).

The emergence of Ferreira Carrasco means that Everton’s Kevin Mirallas needs to up his game. Rather like Dembélé, Mirallas has been resting on his laurels for some time. It also looks like he’s been angling for a move – as everyone wants to play in the Champions League – but on current form, no one is likely to play the asking fee for the Everton man. And we shoudn’t forget Adnan Januzaj who could also be a contender if he gets significant playing time at Old Trafford or elsewhere. And if Wilmots continues, unwisely, to see De Bruyne as a wide-man, Mirallas could have problems when the squad for France is announced. (Ed: Assuming they make it).

What about the rest?

Up front, there are two young players aiming to make a claim. The first is Michy Batshuayi (21), currently with Olympique Marseille. As a youth-team player, Batshuayi had a reputation as being ‘hard to handle’. Anderlecht released him and he eventually emerged at Standard Liege. His career there was of the stop-start variety but his obvious talent shone through (40 goals in 95 games) and he would probably have gone to Brazil, if he hadn’t looked for individual glory rather than playing for the team just before the squad for Brazil was selected.

In the event, he left Standard and joined Marseille. In his first season he was usually on the bench with André-Pierre Gignac taking the main striker’s role. After Gignac’s somewhat surprising move to Mexico, to Tigres UANL, Batshuayi looks to have a big opportunity to be a major player in Ligue 1. There are clouds hovering over Marseille however as the club was in turmoil even before the surprise resignation of Marcelo Bielsa. He’d given Batshuayi solid support and was also a much-needed firm-hand.

The other youngster in the frame is Christian Benteke’s colleague at Liverpool, Divock Origi (20). Origi hit the headlines when he went to Brazil as a relative unknown, replacing the injured Benteke. He even became the first choice striker at the World Cup and this gained him a transfer to Anfield. It was probably too soon, and his subsequent loan period back at Lille was a not a success. Ironically, Benteke’s move to Liverpool has made it more difficult for Origi but he’s versatile and a solid first season at the club could mean he keeps his place in the squad. Like Batshuayi, Origi is fast and has
good technique.

Adnan Januzaj - has a season to prove he's worth the hype.

Adnan Januzaj – has a season to prove he’s worth the hype.

Wilmots likes to have three strikers in his squad and with Benteke a shoo-in for selection for the Euros, there could be some pressure on Mirallas’ team-mate Romelu Lukaku. However, ‘Big Rom’ has started the season in fine form and if he plays like that, he will be going to France. The danger is that Wilmots has never been a big admirer of Lukaku and both Batshuayi and Origi are technically-gifted players who could develop into top strikers at the international level.

Here are 33 players who will fancy their chances – in some cases slim – of making the squad for the 2016 Euros.

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Jean-François Gillet (KV Mechelen), Matz Sels (Gent).

Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit Saint-Pétersbourg), Vincent Kompany & Jason Denayer (Manchester City), Toby Alderweireld & Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Laurens De Bock & Thomas Meunier (Club Brugge), Olivier Deschacht (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)

Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma), Moussa Dembélé & Nacer Chadli (Spurs), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit), Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans & Steven Defour (all Anderlecht), Thorgan Hazard (Mönchengladbach)

Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Kevin Mirallas (Everton)

Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Divock Origi & Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Michy Batshuayi (Marseille).

Jul 25

It may be July but the Belgian season starts here

It could be the first time that the Belgian League started before the Tour De France had reached the Alp d’Huez. But hey, that’s football.

Anderlecht  & Club Brugge - two clubs keen to take the title.

Anderlecht & Club Brugge – two clubs keen to take the title.

It will be an open competition this year. Normally Anderlecht start favourites but after failing to qualify for the Champions League and losing some important players – Alexsander Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba – the squad looks unbalanced. It’s heavy on creative forces but lacking a little quality in defence and attack. Nevertheless, Anderlecht will be keen to avoid missing out on the title for a second consecutive season – it would be the first time since 2009.

The other club hungry for success is Club Brugge. Michel Preud’homme’s men were exhausted after fighting on three fronts last season. General Manager Vincent Mannaert does not want that to happen again and he’s made it plain that it’s the title or nothing. The Blauw & Zwart have not won the trophy since 2005!

Reigning champions Gent have a largely unchanged squad but will find it tough to repeat the heroics of 2014-15. Doubtless Hein Vanhaezebrouck will be planning new tactics but it ain’t easy the second time around. Standard Liège appear to be in rude health. With Roland Duchâtelet just an unhappy memory, the club has a new owner and, yes, another new coach. There’s a feeling of optimism about the place and – new to Sclessin – almost a sense of continuity about the squad.

Racing Genk – the final member of Belgium’s ‘Big Five’ also have a new coach in Peter Maes and are in the process of cleansing the Augean stables. They will have a little cash to spend – some from Christian Benteke’s move to Liverpool – and they may need to go to the shops.
Outside of those five, there are three teams likely to be fighting for the elusive sixth place in the playoffs: Charleroi, KV Mechelen and Oostende.

Charleroi were last season’s surprise packet and so far they’ve managed to keep midfield maestro Neeskens Kebano. KV Mechelen have ambitions and finished last season in style. With Algerian Sofiane Hanni in midfield, and Belgium no. 3 keeper Jean-François Gillet, they should have a reasonable season. Oostende are also ambitious but are beginning to look like an Anderlecht ‘B’ team now that Gohi Bi Cyriac has joined Jordan Lukaku and Fernando Canesin all settled on the coast.

Lokeren will have Boob Peeters in charge this season, and he’ll have big boots to fill after Maes’s achievements. Kortrijk have welcomed Vincent Tan and a new coach in Johan Walem who has moved over from the Belgium U21s.

Anderlecht will be expecting a lot from Leander Dendoncker and Youri Tielemans (copyright John Chapman)

Anderlecht will be expecting a lot from Leander Dendoncker and Youri Tielemans (copyright John Chapman)

Mouscron-Péruwelz are no longer a Lille feeder club and it’s hard to forecast their future. Waasland-Beveren also look like struggling, while Westerlo will be hoping that Filip Daems and Benji De Ceulaer can bring some experience to the proceedings. Zulte Waregem are not the team they were when Thorgan Hazard and the late Junior Malanda were there, but they should be safe under Francky Dury.

Of the two promoted clubs, Sint Truiden would seem to have the most promising future. A synthetic pitch, a great crowd and a useful find in French schemer Jean-Luc Dompé should do the trick. The other newcomers, OH Leuven, will feature John Bostock but could be upset by major ground developments halfway through the year.

New (and nearly new) to the Jupiler Pro League

Hein Vanhaezebrouck - relaxing ahead of the new season  (picture -

Hein Vanhaezebrouck – relaxing ahead of the new season (picture –

Anthony Knockaert – arriving on a Bosman from Leicester City and already having a big impact at Standard.
Johan Walem – the ex-international midfielder has taken over at Kortrijk, his first club coaching post.
Slavoljub Muslin. The tough Serb was at Lokeren about 10 years ago but he’s the new coach at Standard.
Guiliaume Gillet – was on loan at Bastia and the Anderlecht midfielder would like to leave again.
Yoni Buyens – arriving at Genk from Charlton.
Bob Peeters – back to Lokeren after five clubs in five years.
Stefano Okaka – to Anderlecht from Sampdoria.
Mohamed Yattara – to Standard from Lyon.
Enes Üna – on loan at Genk from Manchester City.

Gone but not forgotten

Alexsander Mitrovic to Newcastle United, along with Chancel Mbemba.
Club Brugge’s Maty Ryan to Valencia – a big loss,
Kortrijk’s Teddy Chevalier – to Rizespor.
Genk’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (to Lazio)
Genk’s Jelle Vossen – to Burnley.
OH Leuven’s Logan Bailly – to Celtic.
Mehdi Carcela – from Standard to Benfica.

May 20

Big night for the Buffalos and Hein Vanhaezebrouck

They say 90 minutes is a long time in football. It’s true. Last Sunday at 18.00, Anderlecht were firm favourites to win a fourth successive Belgian title. With two home games and a visit to a totally demotivated Kortrijk, the championship was in the bag.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck - looking relaxed (picture -

Hein Vanhaezebrouck – looking relaxed (picture –

At 19.45, Anderlecht’s dreams were in tatters. A home draw with Standard Liege meant that it was now Gent’s title to lose. Earlier in the day, the Buffalos had unexpectedly won at the Jan Breydel stadium, effectively ending Michel Preud’homme’s Club Brugge’s hopes of the championship.

The focus immediately switched to Thursday night’s match at the Ghelamco Arena where Standard will be Gent’s visitors. A win for the home side will mean they will be Belgian champions for the first time in their history. The game is sold out with tickets reportedly available – not many – for over 1500 euros each.

It’s a remarkable story. Despite a budget of only 25 million euros, Gent are one of Belgium’s ‘Big Five’, but in the second tier – along with Racing Genk – a long way behind Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liège in the pecking order.

Two events have changed the picture. The first was in 2013 when their new ground was completed. The Ghelamco Arena is the only state-of-the-art stadium in Belgium. The second – and perhaps more important in many people’s eyes – was in 2014 when the club hired Hein Vanhaezebrouck.

Vanhaezebrouck is little-known outside Belgium. He’s had two spells at Kortrijk, seven years in total, winning the second division title and taking his team to the Belgian Cup Final in 2012. His work at Kortrijk has always been appreciated and it took him to Racing Genk in 2009. Unfortunately there was never any real chemistry between coach and management with Vanhaezebrouck being sacked after just six months.

After his second spell at Kortrijk, Vanhaezebrouck was appointed by Gent at the start of the current
season. He took over an unfancied club, one that has had six coaches since January 2013. He cleared out a few unwanted players and gave prominent roles to several players he’d worked with at Kortrijk. These included Israeli centre back Rami Gershon, much-travelled Sven Kums and two youngsters – Benito Raman and Brecht Dejaegere.

Vanhaezebrouck is certainly in charge of a team without any household names. Due to Gent’s results this season, Matz Sels was the runner–up in the Players’ Keeper of the Year voting, while Laurent Depoitre is still in with a shout for Players’ Player of the Year. Then there is Moses Simon, recently capped by Nigeria, who arrived in January as a total unknown and immediately hit the headlines to the extent that the club has slapped a 20 million euro price tag on the speedy winger.

Gent captain Sven Kums (picture -

Gent captain Sven Kums (picture –

Vanhaezebrouck seems to have learnt from his unhappy spell at Genk. He is a veritable man of the people; friendly and hard-working. He seems able to live with stress and he’s a top man-manager, often getting the most out of players who have had problems elsewhere.

Midfielder Kums is an example of the way in which Vanhaezebrouck works. After playing over 100 games for Kortrijk, mostly under Vanhaezebrouck, Kums moved to the Netherlands with Heerenveen. After Marco van Basten was appointed there, Kums moved back to Belgium to join Zulte Waregem.

He never made the headlines – they were dominated by Thorgan Hazard – and in the summer, Vanhaezebrouck brought him to Gent and promptly made him captain. Last Sunday, against Club Brugge, Kums was the man of the match.

If Gent win tonight, they will deserve the title. They have lost only one match in 2015, and that was to an extra time goal against Charleroi. A win would lead to Gent being in the Champions League draw and the name of Hein Vanhaezebrouck being better known outside of Belgium’s borders. But there’s still 90 long minutes to go.

May 18

JPL Playoffs Round 8: Unfancied Gent stay top

Playoffs 1
Gent’s away from in the Playoffs has been excellent and they showed no sign of changing their habits with a 3-2 win at the Jan Breydel stadium. Obviously, Michel Preud’homme’s men are tiring after playing over 60 games but that shouldn’t detract from the job that Hein Vanhaezebrouck has done in his first season at the Ghelamco Arena. On Sunday, Gent took the lead early and kept battling to take the three points through an 87th minute goal from Benito Raman. While the experienced Sven Kums bossed midfield for Gent, they played without a recognised striker and Vanhaezebrouck’s tactics were spot on.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck - man of the moment(picture -

Hein Vanhaezebrouck – man of the moment(picture –

Nine points from their last three games of the playoffs would have made Anderlecht champions but on Sunday they could only draw with Standard. Both Anderlecht and Standard were loath to take risks and there was little service up to Aleksander Mitrovic, snuffed out by Standard’s Portuguese centre back Jorge Teixeira.

In the final game, Charleroi easily beat demotivated Kortrijk 5-2.

Club by Club

Gent: They need two points from their last two games to be champions. They are a team without genuine stars but that’s because they have never been in the spotlight. That could change. Vanhaezebrouck has shuffled his pack well and not being in Europe has helped.

Anderlecht: For some reason, Besnik Hasi’s men lacked confidence when it was most needed. They again conceded from a set piece but their biggest problem is a total reliance on Mitrovic for goals.

Club Brugge: Michel Preud’homme’s men are exhausted and the youngsters he has brought in have proved to be too inexperienced. Playing for three trophies has been too much.

Standard: They are now playing for pride. Jose Riga is on his way out. Next season will be interesting.

Charleroi: Les Carolos are still in with a chance of a European qualification and are still playing well. They have really over-achieved under Felice Mazzu.

Kortrijk: It’s all over.

Next games
Thursday: Gent-Standard; Charleroi-Club Brugge; Kortrijk-Anderlecht.
Next weekend: Anderlecht-Gent; Standard-Charleroi; Club Brugge-Kortrijk.

Last results: Anderlecht 1 Standard 1; Charleroi 5 Kortrijk 2; Club Brugge 2 Gent 3.

Standings: Gent 46, Anderlecht 42, Club Brugge 41, Standard 37, Charleroi 36, Kortrijk 33.

Player of the weekend: Sven Kums (Gent)

Playoffs 2
KV Mechelen drew with Lokeren in the first leg of the P02 playoffs final. The winner will play the team finishing fourth (or fifth in certain circumstances) in the Playoffs 1, for a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Leading scorers
Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 18; Emond (Beveren) 14; Santini (Kortrijk) 14, Mujangi Bia (Standard) 14.
Patosi (Lokeren), 13; Chevalier (Kortrijk), Vazquez (Club Brugge) 12; Refaelov (Club Brugge) 11;

May 11

JPL Playoffs round 7: In which Anderlecht move through the pack

Playoffs 1: Gent under pressure

If this was a horse race, Anderlecht would be the favourite – having won its last three races – who is moving through the pack and is nicely positioned with a few furlongs to go. In fact, as this is Belgium, the race has already been completed over 3 ½ miles, at a very slow pace, and is now being re-run over five furlongs – just for the hell of it.

Anderlecht defeated rivals Club Brugge at the weekend.

Anderlecht defeated rivals Club Brugge at the weekend.

But let’s get back to football. The leaders Gent slipped up on Friday night when they could only draw with Charleroi at the Ghelamco Arena. Charleroi were, as usual, enterprising but it’s possible that the pressure of being leaders weighed heavily on the Gent team’s shoulders.

Anderlecht beat Club Brugge in an entertaining game where the man of the match was generally thought to be Davy Roef, who came in for Anderlecht’s suspended keeper Silvio Proto.

Standard easily beat Kortrijk, a team that has problems on and off the pitch. However, even reaching the playoffs has been an excellent achievement by Kortrijk coach Yves Vanderhaeghe.

Club by Club

Gent: Officially, they always said they were aiming for third place at best. That could be where they finish as home draws with Club Brugge and Charleroi have slowed down Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men. Gent are relatively inexperienced and they badly missed the suspended Laurent Depoitre at the weekend.

Anderlecht: With two wins in succession and the advantage of having three of the last four games at home, Anderlecht look nicely placed to gain their fourth successive title. If Steven Defour can stay fit, they should do the job. Besnik Hasi’s experience last season of winning the title during the playoffs will be invaluable

Club Brugge: Michel Preud’homme’s men played their 60th game at the weekend. Although they played well at Anderlecht, they didn’t get the breaks. Tiredness could be a factor in the last three games and they also need Anderlecht to slip up somewhere.

Standard: Since Jose Riga threatened (or promised) to resign, Standard have won two out of two – scoring four against a sad-looking Kortrijk at the weekend. The team is now playing well but there’s an air of ‘too little, too late’.

Charleroi fans - they're enjoying their season.

Charleroi fans – they’re enjoying their season.

Les Carolos are still in with a chance of a European qualification – it’s complicated – and are playing much better than their recent record (one point from three games) shows.

Kortrijk: It’s all going Pete Tong at Kortrijk. Yves Vanderhaeghe is on his way to Oostende, striker Teddy Chevalier fancies a move to Standard and the club ownership is changing. They have over-achieved but it looks like 6th place is the best they’ll manage.

Next weekend: Anderlecht-Standard; Club Brugge-Gent; Charleroi-Kortrijk.

Last results: Standard 4 Kortrijk 0; Gent 1 Charleroi 1; Anderlecht 3 Club Brugge 1.

Standings: Gent 43, Anderlecht 41, Club Brugge 41, Standard 36, Charleroi 33, Kortrijk 33.

Player of the weekend: Davy Roef (Anderlecht)

Playoffs 2

In Group A, KV Mechelen have emerged as winners, just edging out Racing Genk. In Group B, Lokeren cantered home. KV Mechelen will now meet Lokeren over two legs with the winner playing the team finishing fourth (or fifth in certain circumstances) in the Playoffs 1, for a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Leading scorers

Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 18; Emond (Beveren) 14; Santini (Kortrijk) 14, Mujangi Bia (Standard) 14.

Patosi (Lokeren), 13; Chevalier (Kortrijk), 12; Refaelov (Club Brugge) 11;

May 02

JPL Playoffs – halfway mark: Club Brugge stay on top

Playoffs 1

With Club Brugge and Gent both winning during the week, those two clubs remain at the top of the table with Anderlecht slipping back. With five games left, the league now looks like a two-horse race but
Anderlecht have three home games in their last four so can’t be written off. Standard Liege are now officially in crisis after losing at Kortrijk – four defeats in five matches.

Club Brugge: One defeat in five games, at Kortrijk. The club has done well to stay in the lead considering their involvement in the Europa League. They have tremendous staying power, exemplified by veteran Timmy Simons. Michel Preud’homme has coped well with injuries and used his bench effectively.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck - settling in at Gent (picture -

Hein Vanhaezebrouck – settling in at Gent (picture –

Gent: Officially, they say they are aiming for third place but if they keep winning, they will do better. Only one defeat – at Charleroi – and, like Club Brugge, they never stop trying. Striker Laurent Depoitre is having an excellent season at his first ‘big’ club.

Anderlecht: They should have more points than they have – missed chances, poor defending and some decisions have gone against them. They’ve looked better with Chancel Mbemba and Youri Tielemans but they rely too much on Alexsander Mitrovic. They also can’t defend against set pieces and have a major problem at full back.

Charleroi: A surprise packet. Felice Mazzu is showing himself to be a top coach of the future and in Neeskens Kebano they have an exceptional talent. Les Carolos are still in the running for third place, which would be remarkable.

Kortrijk: Yves Vanderhaeghe is another coach doing a fine job. With good wins against Club Brugge and
Standard, they are over-achieving in the playoffs. Ivan Santini has been grabbing the goals but in reality it’s another team without star names.

Standard: A total disaster. They beat Anderlecht and immediately the talk was of the title. Since then, Standard have suffered three defeats. The squad is of poor quality and Jose Riga has done nothing to justify his return in February. Heads will roll.

Next games
This weekend: Standard-Club Brugge; Kortrijk-Gent; Charleroi-Anderlecht.

Last results: Kortrijk 3 Standard 1; Gent 2 Anderlecht 1; Club Brugge 3 Charleroi 1.

Standings: Club Brugge 41, Gent 39, Anderlecht 35, Kortrijk 33, Charleroi 32, Standard 30.
Men of the playoffs so far: Michel Preud’homme and Hein Vanhaezebrouck.
Leading scorers
Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 17; Emond (Beveren) 14; Santini (Kortrijk) 14.
Refaelov (Club Brugge) 11; Chevalier (Kortrijk), Patosi (Lokeren), Vazquez (Club Brugge) 10.

Apr 27

JPL Playoffs Round 4: Anderlecht start playing while Club Brugge keep on fighting back

Playoffs 1

There were important wins for Anderlecht and Charleroi as the playoffs approached the halfway stage. Plumbing the depths were Standard Liege who lost again and were roundly condemned by many. Michel Preud’homme’s Club Brugge again looked to be down and out – this time at Gent – but once more they fought back and managed to salvage a point.

Olivier Deschacht (back, second from the right) lines up before facing Arsenal. (copyright John Chapman)

Olivier Deschacht (back, second from the right) lines up before facing Arsenal. (copyright John Chapman)

Besnik Hasi kept the same Anderlecht side that lost at the Jan Breydel stadium and was proved right as his charges put five goals past a sad-looking Kortrijk. Remarkably, 34 year-old centre back Olivier Deschacht scored the first two goals, both with his head (he’s never before scored in that way). It was the indefatigable Deschacht’s 68th consecutive game for Anderlecht. One of his best friends is Kortrijk coach Yves Vanderhaeghe who was not impressed; threatening to postpone their weekly lunch date.

One welcome sign for the Brussels side was that the goals were spread throughout the team and not restricted to Aleksander Mitrovic. As for the fans, @Tejkarafi felt Anderlecht had just started their campaign while @olliman0085 reasoned a more audacious Anderlecht (and one with fewer Injuries) would have meant more points. Youri Tielemans has certainly come back refreshed but several observers reason that Chancel Mbemba’s return at centre back has been a bigger factor.

Hein Van Haezebrouck’s Gent looked to be heading to the top of the table after Swiss midfielder Danijel Miličević had made it 2-0 in the first half against Club Brugge. But it was not to be. Maybe it was Preud’homme’s introduction of Tom De Sutter, who worried the Gent defence, or perhaps it was that Gent’s players already had their minds on Thursday’s home clash with Anderlecht. Van Haezebrouck’s men are still second however and the party line is that their ambition is to simply be in the top three.

On Saturday, it was the Battle of Wallonia as Charleroi faced Standard Liege. It was no classic and the three points went to the Carolos. There was plenty of criticism for coach Jose Riga and, unlike Preud’homme, he seemed to have no idea what to do in terms of substitutions. @Standard_Yid wrote in to say that Riga will never be good enough to take the club forward and should go. From Ireland, @JBreen8 felt that “Igor De Camargo’s effort level was unacceptable and he shouldn’t have the captain’s armband.” He added that the club needs new owners.

Results: Anderlecht 5 Kortrijk 1; Charleroi 1 Standard 0; Gent 2 Club Brugge 2.

Standings: Club Brugge 38, Gent 36, Anderlecht 35, Charleroi 32, Standard 30, Kortrijk 30.

Man of the weekend: Deschacht (Anderlecht).

Next games

The games come thick and fast now with matches on Tuesday (Kortrijk-Standard), Wednesday (Club Brugge-Charleroi) and Thursday (Gent-Anderlecht). Club Brugge will need to be on their mettle against a Charleroi team that is on a bit of a roll.

Playoffs 2

After a complicated procedure, the winner of the Playoffs 2 will play the team finishing fourth in the Playoffs 1, for a place in the Europa League.

In Group A, Genk managed to defeat KV Mechelen (1-0) after losing to the same opposition by four goals last week. One of those two will win the group – both have home games next Saturday. Genk fans, however, are more ambitious, @DannyWelbeckham “hopes that (Peter) Maes takes us forward next season, there have been rough times for us Genk fans the last few seasons.” @tremans, though, questioned whether the Playoffs 02 could really be counted as football.

In Group B, Lokeren are unbeaten and seem to be on the way to win that group.

Playoffs 3

It’s all over now … for Cercle Brugge. Destroyed by a rejuvenated Lierse, they are relegated to division 2. Meanwhile, Lierse have to get ready for another six games – against Eupen, Leuven and Lommel to see who goes up to division 1 or (in Lierse’s case) stays there. @SeppeDams was not impressed with Lierse’s escape – he stated “(If) you’re last, you’re out.”

Leading scorers

Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 17; Emond (Beveren) 14; Santini (Kortrijk) 14.


Refaelov (Club Brugge) 11; Chevalier (Kortrijk), Patosi (Lokeren), Vazquez (Club Brugge) 10.

Apr 20

JPL Playoffs Round 3: MPH turns it around

Anderlecht's Serb striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (picture: Srdjan Stevanovic/Starsportphoto)

Anderlecht’s Serb striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (picture: Srdjan Stevanovic/Starsportphoto)

Playoffs 1

The big winners of the third round of matches were Michel Preud’homme and Hein van Haezebrouck. The latter’s team, Gent, became the first team to win a ‘Playoff 01’ match on an away ground when they went to Sclessin and easily defeated a poor Standard Liege. Preud’homme’s Club Brugge looked to be down and out against Anderlecht but the introduction of Obbi Oulare changed the game and gave the three points to the home side.

Anderlecht brought back Youri Tielemans, who looked the part, and had Chancel Mbemba in his favoured position in the middle of the defence. An Aleksander Mitrovic goal looked like it was enough for the three points but they reckoned without Club Brugge’s substitute Oulare. The big striker’s strength and speed were too much for Anderlecht and they were guilty of bad misses and sleeping when Oulare and Ruud Vormer scored from Victor Vazquez free-kicks. The Brussels team had good reason to be annoyed about a good goal being disallowed and a penalty not being given but the defeat could have been avoided.

Van Haezebrouck’s Gent outplayed a Standard side that missed the skill and experience of Mehdi Carcela. Gent’s forgotten man, Danish striker Nicklas Pedersen, was the hero of the night with two goals in a 3-1 win. Pedersen was signed from KV Mechelen 18 months ago as a replacement for ‘Pele’ Mboyo who moved to Genk but he’s hardly featured this term under Van Haezebrouck and his selection was a surprise. Gent were top for 48 hours and it would not be a surprise to see them back in the top spot soon.

In the third game, Van Haezebrouck’s replacement at Kortrijk, Yves Vanderhaeghe, looked to be on his way to three points against Charleroi but the Carolos have a fighting spirit these days and the equaliser came from substitute Kalifa Coulibaly.

Obbi Oulare - turmed the game In Club Brugge's favour. (image -

Obbi Oulare – turmed the game In Club Brugge’s favour. (image –

Next weekend, in the top two clash, Club Brugge visit Gent just three days after their Europa League Quarter Final second leg in Kiev. Going for the treble is hard work but for the game in Kiev, Preud’homme hopes to have Oscar Duarte back in defence and he’ll have a Vasquez with more minutes in his legs after his return from injury. It should be ones of the games of playoffs.

Results: Standard 1, Gent 3; Club Brugge 2, Anderlecht 1; Kortrijk 1, Charleroi 1.

Standings: Club Brugge 37, Gent 35, Anderlecht 32, Standard 30, Kortrijk 30, Charleroi 29.

Man of the weekend: Oulare (Club Brugge).

Playoffs 2

After a complicated procedure, the winner of the Playoffs 2 will play the team finishing fourth in the Playoffs 1, for a place in the Europa League.

In Group A, KV Mechelen destroyed Genk 4-0 and are strong favourites after three straight wins. In Group B, Lokeren scored five at Mouscron and it’s between those two to see who tops the group. Oostende got their first points by beating Westerlo.

Playoffs 3

This week, Lierse won at Cercle Brugge in the third match of the five-game series and now it’s all-square.

Leading scorers

Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 16; Emond (Beveren) 14; Santini (Kortrijk) 14 .


Refaelov (Club Brugge) 11; Chevalier (Kortrijk (10); Patosi (Lokeren) 9.

Apr 13

More than just a big time Charly

Charly Musonda Jr after a Belgium U17 game in 2012 (John Chapman copyright)

Charly Musonda Jr after a Belgium U17 game in 2012 (John Chapman copyright)

With Charly Musonda Jr. wearing the number 10 shirt for Chelsea as they won the 2015 UEFA Youth League by beating Shakhtar Donetsk, it’s time for a look back at where he came from and some thoughts about where he’s going.

I’ve seen Musonda play – live – on two occasions. The first time was with the Belgium U17 team in 2012 and the second time was last year with the Belgium U21 side. As you can see from the images here, he’s done some growing but he’s still on the slight side if he wants to make it in the Premier League or elsewhere.

Musonda was born in Brussels in 1996. His father is Charly Musonda Sr. who played over 100 matches for Anderlecht in the 80s and 90s. Musonda Sr. was a Zambian international whose career was hampered by injuries. In 1993, he was selected to play for Zambia in Senegal but didn’t travel as he was under treatment. Musonda was extremely fortunate as the plane carrying the team crashed. There were no survivors.

Charly Musonda Jr. has two football-playing brothers, Lamisha (22) and Tika (20). Charly Jr. was rated as Anderlecht’s finest prospect in the youth ranks, but such is the power of the Premier League, he was signed by Chelsea at the age of 15 before he signed professionally with Anderlecht. Chelsea were so keen to get Charly that they also signed his two brothers – a kind of family package deal.

As expected, Lamisha and Tika have faded from the scene. Even Charly’s progress has not been as spectacular as expected; he’s 18 and seems far from getting a first team debut. Others have taken different routes. Youri Tielemans, aged 17, has played over 50 games in the Anderlecht first team. Dennis Praet is approaching 100 games for Anderlecht, aged 20, and looks likely to move in the summer – possibly to Atletico Madrid.

When I saw Musonda Jr. play for Belgium U17s against the Netherlands, he looked about 14 and was brilliant for 45 minutes. When I saw him a few months ago for the U21s against Norway, he was the outstanding player on the field, creating and scoring goals.

Musonda after playing for Belgium U21s in 2014 (copyright John Chapman)

Musonda after playing for Belgium U21s in 2014 (copyright John Chapman)

Musonda is full of tricks and the Dutch defenders could not get close to him before he tired. The same was true of the Norwegian youngsters as he’s clever, reads the game well and can pass a ball, long and short.

Sint Truiden coach Yannick Ferrera was in charge of the Anderlecht youth team some years ago and his charges included Romelu Lukaku, Adnan Januzaj and Charly Musonda Jr. He rates the last-named as the most talented player he’s ever coached.

He’s obviously rated at Chelsea too and if there’s a player he’s similar to in style, it’s Eden Hazard. That can only be good for Belgium; if Musonda can put on some muscle, he could be ready for the next World Cup in Moscow. But that depends on him getting first team football. With Chelsea’s record of bringing through young players – it’s not good – it could be argued that he should have got himself established at Anderlecht before moving on.

Another player he could be likened to is Enzo Scifo. Times were different back in the 1980s but he struggled in Italy with Inter and in France with Bordeaux after leaving Anderlecht aged 21. It’s always a tough call for the really talented youngsters to know when they should move to a bigger club. Nowadays money talks. Musonda Jr. will probably earn a decent living somewhere but whether he will have the career that his talent deserves has yet to be seen.

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