Here’s all you need to know about the Belgian League Playoffs that start tonight.
1. Who is the Championship Playoffs?
The six teams who qualified for the playoffs are Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Zulte Waregem, Oostende, Charleroi and Gent. Anderlecht and Club Brugge have always qualified under the playoff system since the introduction in 2009-10. It’s Zulte Waregem’s fifth time in the championship playoffs – brilliant considering their budget – and Oostende’s second (in succession).
2. What is the point’s situation?
The points gained in the regular season have been halved, so the situation going into the playoffs is: Anderlecht 31, Club Brugge 30, Zulte Waregem 27, Gent, Oostende and Charleroi – all 25.
3. What’s the first game?
The first game has Zulte Waregem, the cup holders, at home to Anderlecht. It’s worth remembering that the home team has already qualified for the Europa League (as cup winners) so motivation for the playoffs may not be optimum.
4. What is the full calendar for the Playoffs?
The schedules for the Championship Playoffs (and for the Playoffs 2, see below) are available at http://www.sport.be/fr/jupilerproleague/fixture.html?comp=12656&period=6 – the championship playoffs end May 21, the Playoffs 2 on May 25 and the final game – see point 8 – on May 28.
5. Who are the in-form teams going into the championship Playoffs?
Anderlecht are the form team, having won four of their last five games but they have to play two matches against Manchester United during the playoffs; and maybe more Europa League games! Gent have won their last three league games but their away form is atrocious. The team with the worst recent record is Club Brugge, with two defeats in their last five outings.
6. Who are favourites for the title and who will win it?
Anderlecht have the talent and the motivation to take the title; they have not won the championship since 2013-14. I think they will have the edge over an improving Gent.
7. What about the rest of the teams in the first division?
Apart from the six qualifying teams and the one relegated team – Westerlo – the remaining nine (KV Mechelen, Standard Liège, Sint Trond, Beveren, Racing Genk, Kortrijk, Lokeren, Eupen and Mouscron) will be joined by three teams from the second division (known as League 1B) – Lierse, Union Saint-Gilloise and Roeselare) – in the Playoffs 2.
8. What is the Playoffs 2?
In a complicated system, the 12 teams in the Playoffs 2 will play in two separate groups with the eventual winner of overall Playoffs 2 meeting the team that (probably) finishes fourth in the Championship Playoffs with the winner of that game going into the Europa League qualifiers.
9. Who are favourites for the Playoffs 2?
Racing Genk have reached the last eight of the Europa League and should have too much talent in their team for the rest of those in the Playoffs 2. But a) they may have the Europa League on their minds and b) they have not been consistent as they are a young team with new players. KV Mechelen should not be ignored as coach Yannick Ferrera always has something to prove. I can’t see Standard Liège achieving much after their horrific season.
10. Anything else to watch out for?
Union Sint Gilloise – once the biggest team in Belgian football with 11 titles from 1903-1935 – will be playing in the Playoffs 2 at the Stade Roi Baudouin/Koning Boudewijnstadion as their (small) ground is under renovation.