A little historyIn recent years, the bigger clubs in Belgium have not taken the Belgian Cup very seriously. Anderlecht and Club Brugge have not appeared in the final since, respectively, 2008 and 2007. The last time two of Belgium’s ‘Big Five’ met in the final was in 2008, when Anderlecht beat Gent. In the previous year, Club Brugge defeated Standard.
You have to go back over 20 years, to 1994, to find the last time that Anderlecht met Club Brugge, when Anderlecht won 2-0 at Sclessin. Before that, in 1977, Club Brugge came back from the dead to win 4-3, with two goals from ex-Derby County striker Roger Davies.
Davies was a hero but he was never on the same wavelength as coach Ernst Happel. After one bust-up, Davies said he would never play for Happel again and he never did. Recently Davies said that was the biggest mistake of his career.
Club Brugge – playing on three frontsThe two clubs are the joint favorites for the league and are both going for the double. In Club Brugge’s case it’s a treble as they are in the last eight of the Europa League after a thrilling victory against Besiktas just two days ago.
Club Brugge are on a roll and Thomas Meunier recently said the team were like a boxer, ready for the next bout. Their star player is arguably Mat Ryan, with the Australian keeper putting in excellent performances, especially in the big games.
Striker Tom De Sutter is also on form and after spending several years at Anderlecht, including a lot of time on the bench, he will be quietly looking for revenge.
However, coach Michel Preud’homme’s strength has been that he’s cleverly rotated the squad so that he can still turn out a reasonably fresh team despite playing on three fronts.
He can count on the speed of Jose Izquierdo, the experience of captain Timmy Simons and the trickery of Lior Refaelov. Allied to that, he has teenagers Obbi Oulare and Boil Bolinoli Mbombo – Romelu Lukaku’s cousin – who can both make a difference.
Anderlecht – suffering from injuries
This season, Anderlecht have been superb, and sometimes unlucky, in Europe and somewhat off the pace in the league matches. This should mean that they will be up for the game tomorrow but injuries have had an impact in recent weeks and several of the first choices have had little playing time.
Dennis Praet and Steven Defour are said to be fit but it’s not certain they will be ready for 90 minutes. The same is true for Portuguese defender Rolando and German midfielder Marko Marin. One player they can depend on is Leander Dendoncker, 19, who has been playing so consistently that Youri Tielemans is now a bench player at best.
Another player they would love to count on is Aleksander Mitrovic. He’s got himself in shape – physically and mentally – in the last few months but he’s never far away from a fracas.
Differences and conclusions
If all of Anderlecht’s squad were 100% fit, they would have enough quality to start favorites. However, that’s not the case and they have not looked good in their last outings. Club Brugge have been winning games without the injured Victor Vazquez and that has meant that Preud’homme has adapted his tactics so that less risks are taken.
Preud’homme also has a team where goals can come from all over the park. Isquierdo, De Sutter, Refaelov, Felipe Gedoz and Vazquez have all got their share of goals this season. Oulare and Bolongoli have also looked dangerous when they’ve played. In contrast, Anderlecht have relied heavily on Mitrovic, with a few goals from Defour.
The match will be tense in front of a full house. It could get fiery and the match could depend on how coaches use their substitutions. If Club Brugge are not too tired after they Istanbul endeavors, I take them to just edge a thriller against an Anderlecht team that might have too many players not quite fit enough for such a game.
Extremely difficult to forecast the line-ups, especially Club Brugge given their schedule. But here goes …
Anderlecht: Proto, Vanden Borre, Rolando, Deschacht, N’Sakala, Dendoncker, Defour, Praet, Najar, Marin, Mitrovic.
Club Brugge: Ryan, Meunier, Mechele, Duarte, De Bock, Simons, Vormer, Refaelov, Gedoz, Izquierdo, De Sutter.