There are only three games for each club before the Jupiler League splits into three sections for the ‘Playoffs’. As mentioned previously, the ‘Playoffs 1’ series (a round robin tournament for the top six) will decide the champions. Currently Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Gent have booked their places in the top six; Cercle Brugge and Standard Liege should do so soon, although maybe not this weekend. After those five, it’s one team from Kortrijk, reigning champions Genk, KV Mechelen and Lokeren.
That means that this weekend’s clash between Kortrijk and Genk is a vital game for both sides. Genk have been in much improved form recently while Kortrijk have imploded, perhaps because they have reached the cup final for the first time in their history.
Apart from ‘Playoffs 1’, the league will also split into the rather sad ‘Playoffs 2’ (teams in 7th to 14th position) and the remarkable ‘Playoffs 3’ (teams in the last two positions). For new readers, there will be more on this on the blog next week.
This weekend, by a quirk of fate, the top eight teams will all play a team in that same top eight – a kind of pre-playoff playoff. Apart from Kortrijk-Genk, we will have KV Mechelen-Gent, Club Brugge-Standard and Anderlecht against Bob Peeters surprise package, Cercle Brugge.
KV Mechelen are still hoping to make the ‘Playoffs 1’ and a draw between Kortrijk and Genk would suit them fine. Apart from that, they have to beat Gent and they’ll be pretty confident as the Buffalos have been looking far from impressive recently. Gent could reunite their experienced midfield triangle of Smolders-Thijs-Jorgensen.
It’s the big game of the weekend. Kortrijk have reached the cup final and managed to lose 5-2 at home last week to their final opponents Lokeren, who played with 10 men for half of the game. That could mean that the players are no longer focused on the league, which could be good for Kevin De Bruyne and co. Genk have to qualify for the Playoffs 1, at least if Mario Been wants to keep his job. Kortrijk have not won any of last five league games.
Westerlo are 99.9% condemned to being in the dreaded ‘Playoffs 3’ although points would be useful to stay ahead of Sint Truiden. Lokeren, however, have an outside chance of ‘Playoffs 1’ qualification and they are unbeaten in five.
Lierse have absolutely nothing to play for, so expect Leuven to take the points. The home side will have Olek Iakovenko who is still hoping to force himself into the Ukraine squad for the Euros.
Even though Zulte Waregem have nothing to play for either, it’s hard to see Sint Truiden winning. Except … if the return of Reza
This game is interesting in the sense that it marks the return of Enzo Scifo, newly installed as Mons coach.
Club Brugge-Standard Liege:
Club Brugge will want the three points to keep in touch with Anderlecht and a new pitch has been laid. That should suit Victor Vasquez and his chums who like to play football. Standard’s fans are not travelling as they object to Club Brugge increasing the prices to €25. Neither side has scored in their last two outings but it looks like the home side are more likely to get a goal or two here. Jelle Van Damme should return for Standard.
Anderlecht have not found the net either in recent weeks. There also seems to be a bit of trouble in the camp, mostly centring on Milan Jovanovic, who does like to voice his opinions. Cercle Brugge are likely to make the ‘Playoffs 1’ but a win here would count as a surprise. Roland Juhasz is suspended and Wasyl is likely to move to centre back. It’s possible that Fernando Canesin will replace Guilaume Gillet, who became a proud father in the week.