It was one of those weekends when the Jupiler Pro League fixture list was not going to get anyone but the most ardent fans excited. The match of the weekend looked to be the clash between Lokeren and Club Brugge, both in the top six. I saw the second half and was not impressed; despite that, Club Brugge coach Juan Carlos Garrido said it was a game that would have pleased most people. Off the pitch, there has been much transfer speculation. Belgian football is still sexy and if there is a Belgian link to be found, then the media – whatever that means these days – will leap on it and create a story.
All quiet on the Jupiler Pro League front
The weekend kicked off with Anderlecht soft-pedalling their way to a 2-0 victory over Charleroi. The visitors had carelessly lost their coach, young Yannick Ferrera, once he was informed that despite his excellent work at the club, he would most likely be assistant coach next season. Before the game, Anderlecht’s Dieumerci Mbokani was on time to receive the 2012 Golden Boot as Player of the Year. He also scored and said he would get 10 more this season before heading for pastures new.
All the other games followed form except for Gent’s win at Mons. Enzo Scifo’s team had most of the play but couldn’t capitalise on their possession. The player to break the deadlock was Petit Pele Mboyo with a great strike. Before Hervé Kagé later made it 2-0, Mboyo had been Gent’s only scorer in their last 11 games (seven goals). Thorgan Hazard was in evidence again for second-placed Zulte Waregem. The second eldest of the Hazard clan is gaining in confidence on and off the pitch and will be one of the guests of honour on RTBF’s Tribune TV show on Monday night. On the ones to follow front, it was good to see Genk’s Jordy Croux and Beerschot’s loanee Benito Raman get some playing time, with the latter showing up well against Leuven.
With three weekends left (and a few catch-up games), the main playoffs look certain to be contested between Anderlecht, Zulte Waregem, Racing Genk, Standard, Lokeren and Club Brugge. There is a possibility that KV Mechelen could grab a place but with three games left, they must play both Anderlecht and Zulte Waregem.
Transfers – sagas and speculation
The Matias Suarez transfer saga continues unabated. After an operation and two failed medicals, the Argentine winner of the 2011 Golden Boot finally passed his third medical. Anderlecht’s Herman Van Holsbeeck is cynical enough to think that the crafty Russians – Suarez has signed for CSKA – will try to find a reason to reduce the transfer fee. It was recently reported in Le Soir that Team Suarez no longer fancied the Russian climate, while Anderlecht coach John Van den Brom would probably not object to Suarez being available for the playoffs. This may end soon.
Taking up less ink are the potential moves of Anderlecht’s Kanu to Terek Grozny and Marcin Wasilewski to Legia Warsaw. The first may not happen as the Russians probably won’t fancy paying the desired amount – €3 million plus agents’ fees – while Wasyl may just decide that his pay packet in Brussels is worth hanging on to for a while longer.
Over in UK tabloid land, Lucas Biglia is said to be interesting Liverpool, while Christian Benteke and Marouane Fellaini are said to be the players most likely to be chased by the top Premier League clubs come the summer. The atrocious Sun piece had Biglia out of favour at Anderlecht (not true), fined for missing the training camp (not true) and available for a knock-down €5.5 (that was always the agreement for the end of the season and agents’ fees must be added). Then, depending on what you believe, Benteke is going to Atletico Madrid (once Falcao has gone to Chelsea in exchange for Thibaut Courtois – plus it is assumed – some cash) or Spurs. As for Fellaini, he is now in Manchester City’s sights as well as Chelsea’s – at least he’ll have a shorter drive for training.
Ostende heading for the First Division
In the Second Division, Ostende went eight points clear at the top after a 5-1 demolition of Heist. Back in September, I said “Ostende are strong at home and could have a good season.” They are doing far better than that and have the best defensive record in the division. I also said Eupen, Lommel, Mouscron-Peruwelz and Sint-Truiden were the favourites for promotion. Eupen – backed by Qatari money – have disappointed due to a total lack of stability at the club while Lommel have not performed at all. Mouscron and Sint Truiden could make the playoffs but the whole division is worthy of more consideration and I’ll aim to put something on the blog in the next few weeks.
That’s all for now. Next weekend is billed as another ‘Super Sunday’ with Anderlecht going to the Jan Breydel stadium to face Club Brugge while Standard will welcome Racing Genk to Sclessin. Anderlecht are unbeaten in 14 games and will be keen to avoid defeat; Club Brugge will need to improve to get points from the game. The Standard-Genk match will be played without William Vainqueur (suspended) and Jelle Vossen (injured). And don’t forget, all points gained will be divided by two for the playoffs!