With the halfway stage in the Jupiler League Playoffs fast approaching, it’s time to asses the state of the nation. The top two – Anderlecht and Club Brugge – meet on Sunday evening and that could easily lead to a change at the top. Club Brugge are just one point behind Anderlecht, who won the ‘classic’ season for the third year in a row. Sunday’s match will be at the Jan Breydel stadium and a lot of money on the street is going on a 1-0 victory for Christophe Daum’s boys. Here are my thoughts on the movers and shakers in the playoffs to-date:
It has to be Kevin De Bruyne, by far. The on-loan Chelsea midfielder has been outstanding as the architect behind Racing Genk’s record of three wins in four games. De Bruyne has excelled in a central playmaker role and Genk now sit handily in third place. De Bruyne played centrally in the youth teams but in a more advanced role. Now he’s lying further back and really directing the play. His form in the last six weeks has been his best since he burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season.
I would also give an honorary mention to Dieumerci Mbokani, for his three goals in four games. Anderlecht have been misfiring on all cylinders in the playoffs and Mbokani, along with Silvio Proto, has been keeping them afloat.
Most disappointing player
Anderlecht captain Lucas Biglia has been the best player in the Jupiler League in the last few seasons. However, since returning from a shoulder operation, he’s looked out of sorts. Maybe it’s because his brief flirtation with the Argentine national team seems to be over or maybe he’s already thinking about life after the Constant Vanden Stock stadium; whatever the reason, he’s not driving Anderlecht as he used to and the results are clear to see.
It has to be current champions Racing Genk who have finally hit form with the season almost over. As the results have been primarily due to De Bruyne, who’s got all the others playing above themselves, I’m going to add Kortrijk. Starting out as the surprise guests at the party, Kortrijk have over-achieved by beating Club Brugge and earning a thoroughly deserved draw at Anderlecht. It’s a team without genuine stars and coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck deserves a lot of credit for his achievements after he was sacked by Genk.
Most disappointing team
Standard Liege. They have yet to win a match in the playoffs and on Sunday they visit Genk’s Cristal Arena. It’s not too difficult to determine the reasons as their players are just not good enough. Steven Defour, Axel Witsel and Mehdi Carcela have been replaced by Yoni Buyens, William Vainqueur and Serge Gakpé. The club is said to be the richest in Belgium and it’s not obvious why they have been unwilling to spend some more cash. Standard have brilliant fans but statements like “this is a season of transition” are not going to keep them happy for long.
Next games: Kortrijk-Gent; Club Brugge-Anderlecht; Racing Genk-Standard.
Genk: P4, W3, D0, L1, Pts 9;
Club Brugge: P4, W2, D1, L1, Pts 7;
Kortrijk: P4, W1, D2, L1, Pts 5;
Anderlecht: P4, W1, D2, L1, Pts 5;
Gent: P4, W1, D0, L3, Pts 3;
Standard: P4, W0, D3, L1, Pts 3.
(See actual league standings elsewhere on blog, based on 1/2 point gained in ‘classic’ league plus points gained in playoffs.)