Tonight’s cup final at the Roi Baudouin stadium sees Lokeren face Kortrijk. It’s the first time that none of the ‘Big Five’ have reached the final since 2006, when Zulte Waregem defeated Mouscron. This year, the big clubs fell regularly with the biggest shock being Anderlecht’s home defeat to Rupel Boom. At the quarter final stage, Gent and Standard were favourites but both were defeated, to the surprise of many.
Lokeren and Kortrijk – both places can be found on a straight line between Lille and Antwerp – are two unfashionable clubs who thoroughly deserve to be there. Both have had good seasons and coaches doing an excellent job on small budgets. This last point is typified by the fact that neither club could play Europa League matches at their home grounds as they don’t meet UEFA regulations.
Lokeren, coached by Peter Maes, will start slight favourites as they have been in good form in recent weeks. One outstanding result was a 5-2 victory at Kortrijk, achieved with 10 men for half the game. Kortrijk, however, won 4-1 at Lokeren. Benjamin De Ceulaer is Lokeren’s best-known player with 11 goals to-date this season. Others to note are Belgium U21 captain Nill De Pauw in midfield, Croat veteran Ivan Leko alongside him and, if he plays, teenage full back Laurens De Bock. I was rightly criticised for recently leaving De Bock out of my top 10 young talents. Finally, we should not forget Boubacar Copa Barry, the Ivory Coast keeper, who has been guarding Lokeren’s nets for some time.
Kortrijk are coached by Hein Vanhaezebrouck, who is back there after having suffered when in charge of Genk. He’s now taken Kortrijk into the Playoffs and reached the cup final, a successful season by any standards. Vanhaezebrouck often rotates the side and it’s difficult to forecast who will start. There are two Anderlecht loanees, Pablo Chavarria and Dalibor Veselinovic and it’s likely only one will be there at the kick off. One of the most impressive players is Steven Joseph Monrose, a French U21 international striker.
The atmosphere should be excellent. Lokeren have sold 16,000 tickets which is remarkable for a club that averages 5,500 at most games. Lokeren President Roger Lambrecht says it won’t be a disaster if they lose as they have already over-achieved. Vanhaezebrouck says Lokeren are the favourites, but then he would say that wouldn’t he. One thing we can expect is plenty of goals.