In the previous round of Europa League matches, all three Belgian sides – Standard Liege, Club Brugge and Anderlecht – all had excellent results in difficult games. It was the first time that three Belgian club sides had all won in Europe in the same week for many years. Tonight’s matches don’t seem as tough and all three should win. That would not make up for Genk’s disaster in London last night – and one has to have some sympathy for a weakened team – but it would be a start.
Group B: Standard Liege (currently top equal on points with Hannover)
Standard are at home to Vorskla Poltava, a team mid-way in the Ukrainian league. The way that Jose Riga’s men played on Sunday at Anderlecht – a 5-0 defeat – they will probably be glad the challenge is no greater. Standard top the group at the moment and a win should ensure a further qualification (in this never-ending competition).
Riga may change the team around after Sunday. Meme Tchite is out injured – although his form has been poor – and he’ll probably be replaced by Zoro (one ‘R’) Cyriac. Ex-Wolves winger Geoffrey Mujangi Bia will be hoping for a chance and Brazilian Kanu comes back into central defence. Playmaker Franck Berrier, who sometimes appears very lightweight, could pay the price for the heavy loss in Brussels and drop to the bench.
Poltava man to watch: I’m taking a punt on Roman Bezus, an U21 international striker.
Overall expectations: Standard should win tonight and after beating Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago; they should qualify.
Group H: Club Brugge (top, three points clear of Braga and Birmingham)
Adrie Koster’s men top the group after a hard-earned three points in Braga last time out. They should be too strong for a Birmingham side that coach Chris Hughton says is giving priority to promotion back to the Premier League. The Belgian media is full of reports about potential crowd trouble and a remarkable 5,600 Birmingham fans will travel to Brugge. They will be greeted by water cannon, riot police and helicopters – reinforcements are coming in from Antwerp and Gent. Let’s hope it doesn’t kickoff too much.
As for the match, Belgian U21 international Jimmy De Jonghe will replace injured captain Karl Hoefkens and Jonathan Blondel (remember him at Spurs?) will stay in for Victor Vasquez (cracked rib). Club Brugge’s man on form is Vadis Odjidja and he’ll be up for a game with the Brits. Some speculation about who will captain the side.
Birmingham man to watch: Chilean international Jean Beausejour.
Overall expectations: Club Brugge should win and qualify along with Braga.
Group L: Anderlecht (also top, three points clear of Lokomotiv and Sturm Graz)
Anderlecht are in Graz for tonight’s game. The Anderlecht of Sunday should take the points and the qualification. Sturm Graz are another middle of the table team (6th in a 10 team league). The Brussels team got the points in Moscow and will be confident, perhaps over confident. There is already talk of Anderlecht reaching the Europa Cup final.
Matias Suarez is still the leading scorer in the competition. He’ll play behind Mbokani tonight – which will suit him – and there are whispers of Milan Jovanovic being given a rest. He could be replaced by Anderlecht’s Kanu (also from Brazil). Apart from that it should be the same side as played on Sunday. I have a feeling they could be held to a draw.
Sturm Graz man to watch: (very) experienced striker Marios Haas. .
Overall expectations: Along with Lokomotiv, Anderlecht should go though.