The Good, The Bad and The Playoffs

By | May 3, 2013

Zulte Waregem - leading the pack

Zulte Waregem – leading the pack

With four games left in the Jupiler Pro League playoffs, only five points cover the first five clubs. It’s been called the most exciting title race in Europe, but even those using that terminology agree that the playoffs format falsifies the championship.

That’s because at the end of the classic season, the top six play off in a mini-table with the points gained to-date being divided by two. The most stunning example of what that can produce is that Anderlecht finished 17 points ahead of Standard Liege in the classic season and are now just one point in front with the two clubs meeting on Sunday. Ironically, Standard Liege have been the club most opposed to the current playoff system.

Standard Liege and Club Brugge are the two clubs who have benefited the most from the rather maverick rules of the playoffs with 13 and 10 points, respectively, gained from the six games played so far – that has put both clubs back in the race. Anderlecht, who were easily the best club in the classic season, have seen their form plummet, with just five points from their six games.

There have been some great games (Zulte Waregem 3 Standard 4; Standard 3 Genk 0, Club Brugge 3 Zulte Waregem 4, Lokeren 4 Standard 1) but the games between the top clubs come so thick and fast, there’s a feeling that it can be too much – financially – for the fans and too demanding for the smaller squads with injuries and suspensions mounting. Finally, and most importantly, this final round of playoff matches cheapens the eight months and 30 matches per club of the preceding classic season.

As coaches go, Anderlecht’s John Van den Brom is under immense pressure; Zulte Waregem’s Francky Dury has shown that he’s mellowed following his problems at Gent while Standard’s Mircea Rednic’s experience with both Rapid and Dynamo Bucharest has finally begun to show on the pitch.

With four matches to go and the Anderlecht-Zulte Waregem clash scheduled for May 19th, the final day of the season, this is one title race that steadfastly refuses to have one team emerging from the pack. Rather like 2010-2011, when Genk and Standard played each other on the final day with Thibaut Courtois’ heroics sending the title to the Cristal Arena, this one will go to the wire.

Points to-date after 6 matches (of 10)

Zulte Waregem 40, Anderlecht 39, Standard Liege 38, Club Brugge 37, Racing Genk 36, Lokeren 31.

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