Tonight sees two crucial games in the fifth round of the playoffs: Racing Genk-Club Brugge, followed by Zulte Waregem-Anderlecht. The match in Waregem will see the top two facing each other and the picture should be much clearer when the final whistle is heard.
There have been some exhilarating matches so far, Standard won 4-3 at Zulte Waregem, Zulte won 4-3 at Club Brugge, while Lokeren caused a shock by defeating Standard 4-1. Meanwhile, Anderlecht didn’t win any of their first three games.
Despite their dodgy start, Anderlecht are still ahead, two points clear of Zulte Waregem – the season’s surprise team. Tonight, I have a feeling that Anderlecht will revert to 4-3-3, which won’t be popular with fans or pundits. Guillaume Gillet could come in after suspension and it’s certain that both Matias Suarez (hardly fit) and Dennis Praet (exhausted) will start on the bench.
If Zulte Waregem have a weakness, apart from the size of their squad, it’s their home form. It’s not good and they need to resolve the problem if they are finally going to go to the top of the table. They will have their usual line-up, featuring Chelsea loanee Thorgan Hazard, want-away schemer Franck Berrier and one-time Fulham target Junior Malanda.
Tonight’s other game sees third-place Genk face fifth-place Club Brugge. Genk have been picking up the points without playing particularly well while Club Brugge need to recover from conceding four goals at home – three for Mbaye Leye – to Zulte Waregem. There are already rumours swirling around about Juan Garrido’s future at the Jan Breydel stadium if Club Brugge lose tonight.
Club Brugge’s main problem is defence where the make-up of the back four changes every match. Scandinavian defenders Larsen and Stenman are out for the rest of the season so Ryan Donk will probably move back into defence tonight. Eidur Gudjohnsen and Carlos Bacca will be doing their best to keep Club Brugge in the hunt. For Genk, Jelle Vossen should be fit and they will be keen to go second before Zulte kick off.
Anderlecht 39, Zulte Waregem 37, Racing Genk 35, Standard 35, Club Brugge 31, Lokeren 30 (Standard and Lokeren have played one game more).
Playoffs in numbers
3 There are three series of playoffs: only the first one (PO1) generates real interest.
6 The 6 teams in PO1: Anderlecht, Zulte Waregem, Club Brugge, Standard, Lokeren & Genk.
50% Before the playoffs start, the points gained in the classic season are divided by two.
30 The six teams play each other twice; this leads to 30 playoff games in total.
3 Standard are four points behind Anderlecht, they were 17 points behind at end of classic season
21 There have been 44 goals in the 13 games to-date (defending is not top of the list)
7 Only Standard and Genk have won more than one of their playoff matches so far.
1 Only Club Brugge and Lokeren have lost more than one of their games to-date
4 Of the 13 matches played, four have been won by a home team in the PO1 series to-date
25% Since 2010-2011, sales of tickets for Playoffs at Standard Liege have dropped by 25%.
If you’d like to know more about how the playoffs actually operate, here’s a piece from a couple of years ago.