There will be full house at the Bosuil stadium tonight when Royal Antwerp welcome Standard Liege. Welcome is perhaps the wrong word as both clubs have reputations for having supporters who would agree with the late Bill Shankly about life, death and football.
This will be the first meeting between the two clubs for 10 years. Then, Standard Liege won a cup match 4-0. The Standard side included Dante, Steven Defour, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Milan Jovanovic. Antwerp were in the middle of their flirtation with Manchester United and lined-up with Ryan Shawcross and Frazier Campbell.
Times have changed and there are fewer well-known names. Antwerp have Sinan Bolat in goal, best remembered for his four years with Standard during which they won the Belgian title. Obbi Oulare also features for Belgium’s oldest club, on loan from Watford.
Standard have Paul-Jose Mpoku in their line-up, a player who was at Leyton Orient on loan from Spurs as a teenager. Sebastien Pocognoli has also returned to Standard after a rather chequered spell in England with West Brom and Middlesbrough.
There are quite a few links between the clubs with Luciano D’Onofrio, who ruled Standard for a decade, now in place as Sporting Director at Antwerp.
Furthermore, the Great Old’s coach is none other than László Bölöni, who was in charge of Standard when they won the title in 2008-09 and was also coach of Sporting Lisbon from 2001-2003. One of Bölöni’s players at that time was Ricardo Da Pinto, now the coach at Sclessin. Da Pinto is a close friend of D’Onofrio, no surprise there.
Standard are currently 11th in the JPL with a game in hand, having won their last two matches. Antwerp, promoted last season, are sixth and could do third, above Anderlecht, if they win tonight.
Players to watch out for are Portuguese U20 international Ivo Rodrigues in Antwerp’s midfield, their striker William Owusu and the Standard trio of Mpoku, Edmilson Jr. and Orlando Sá.
Whatever the result, it is likely to be a lively evening.