One final push for Genk, Charleroi need help from their friends in Liège.Charleroi were the big losers last Saturday after going down 1-0 to a Club Brugge side that won without looking particularly good. Preud’homme’s men are missing Victor Vazquez but he won’t be returning for a few weeks.
Anderlecht, Gent and Kortrijk also won last weekend, with the first two leaving it very late. Besnik Hasi said Lokeren deserved to beat Anderlecht on the day but Aleksandar Mitrovic gave the Brussels team the points. He’s now scored 20 goals, with 13 in the JPL.
The results mean that there are now five teams that have qualified for the main playoffs (P01): Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Gent, Kortrijk and Standard Liège. The final position will be taken by Racing Genk or Charleroi, who face Standard and Mouscron, respectively, today.
Teams from Wallonia in the spotlight
The JPL is dominated by Flemish clubs as there are only three, out of 16, from French-speaking Wallonia: Charleroi, Mouscron-Péruwelz and Standard. Surprisingly then, there will be a focus on the south of the country as José Riga’s Standard could help Charleroi to qualify for the P01 playoffs – by beating Alex McLeish’s Genk — while a point for Mouscron – at Charleroi – could help them avoid the ignominy of the P03s (see below).
Alex McLeish has done reasonably well at Genk with a youngish squad and qualification for the playoffs would set him up for the second year of his contract. He’s missing a few players tomorrow, most notably Derrick Tschimanga et “Pelé” Mboyo but McLeish feels that just gives a chance to their replacements.
Standard were woeful last Saturday and they have to cope with injuries and suspensions. Les Rouches have already qualified for the playoffs (P01) and some observers feel they won’t be up for the game with Genk. Riga has denied this saying that all he cares about is getting as many points as possible; he added he won’t be thinking about Charleroi at all. Most notably, Standard will be without Imoh Ezekiel, so even the Genk fans might feel that a point – or more – could be on the cards.
Two of the top three meet in Brussels
Anderlecht (second in the table) face Gent (third) in what should be the game of the day inpurely footballing terms. Anderlecht expect to have Steven Defour back from injury and Dennis Praet should be fit enough for a place on the bench. It will be interesting to see Hasi’s line-up for the Cup Final when Defour, Leander Dendoncker, Praet and Youri Tielemans are all fit – four into three in midfield does not go. Dendoncker is the least known of the four but he’s been getting the most credit in recent weeks, to the extent that it would not be a total surprise to see him named in Marc Wilmot’s squad next week.
Here’s the state of play.
See my previous article for more on the background of the playoffs. Here are line-ups for the three playoffs – going into the final weekend.
P01 Playoffs: Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Gent, Kortrijk and Standard Liège plus Racing Genk OR Charleroi.
P02 Playoffs: Racing Genk OR Charleroi, Lokeren, KV Mechelen, Oostende, Westerlo, Zulte Waregem, plus two from Mouscron, Cercle Brugge and Waasland-Beveren.
P03 Playoffs: Lierse versus one from Mouscron, Cercle Brugge and Beveren.
The P03 Playoffs are remarkable in that the two bottom clubs play each other five times with the team finishing in the penultimate position starting with a three point advantage.
At the moment, Lierse are certain to be involved in the P03 playoffs and will face one of Cercle Brugge (24 points), Beveren (25) and Mouscron (26). Currently Cercle Brugge are in the other P03 position but if they and Beveren both win at home – against clubs with little to play for – then Mouscron will face Lierse over five games.
After Saturday’s results, the leading scorers are:
Renaud Emond (Beveren) 13
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht) 13
Ivan Santini (Kortrijk) 13
Laurent Depoitre (Gent) 12
Abdoulay Diaby (Mouscron – now back at Lille) 12
Emond is 23 and he scored a lot of goals for third division Virton in 2012-13. He’s now in his second season with Waasland-Beveren and he’s likely to be moving on to a bigger club soon. Mitrovic is well-known and he could be leaving Belgium at the end of the season. After being in the headlines for the wrong reasons – inappropriate gestures, carrying too much weight – he’s now settled at Anderlecht and is looking the part. Santini is in his second season at Kortrijk and has a record of a goal in every two games. All three will be looking to finish top goalscorer in the JPL.
Tomorrow’s games – Sunday afternoon
Going into today’s games – all to be played at the same time 14.30 – the positions are: Club Brugge 58 points, Anderlecht 57, Gent 54, Standard 50, Kortrijk 50, Racing Genk 49, Charleroi 46, Lokeren 41, KV Mechelen 38, Oostende 35, Westerlo 33, Zulte Waregem 31, Mouscron 26, Beveren 25, Cercle Brugge 24, Lierse 21.
The final matches will feature: Anderlecht-Gent, Standard-Genk, Charleroi-Mouscron, Lierse-Kortrijk, Westerlo-Club Brugge, Beveren-Lokeren, Cercle Brugge-KV Mechelen and Zulte Waregem-Oostende.
After the classic season finishes, it’s the Cup Final, (Anderlecht-Club Brugge) and then the playoffs start at the Ester weekend. Point to remember: the top six will see their points halved as they enter the playoffs (P01).