The Belgian Cofidis Cup is a competition that is dying on its feet. Steve Martens and his team at the Belgian Football Association are looking at ways of injecting some life into the contest; ideas being mooted include a facelift to make it more like the Davis Cup. That’s no surprise given Martens’ background at the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association. Whatever solution is found, however, the need for change is overwhelming. There is a lack of public interest. Belgian fans prefer to invest their time in the Jupiler League, Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and even the FA Cup, where Wembley still has mythical status for Belgian fans and for many across continental Europe.
Meanwhile the current competition staggers on, hampered this year by the early exits of Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Racing Genk. Currently the only match in the Cofidis Cup that excites genuine excitement and interest of any scale is the final; a real fans’ day out at the Roi Baudouin stadium.
Tonight’s quarter final return legs should see Standard Liege qualify to meet Gent in one of the semi-finals while the other games should result in Mons going through to meet Kortrijk in the other last four game.
Of the four favourites, the club in most danger would appear to be Kortrijk who travel to Beerschot. The Antwerp side lost 6-1 on Saturday but that may have been partly due to the players (and the coach) having tonight’s game on their minds. Beerschot have an excellent home record and Kortrijk will have to be on their mettle despite a two-goal lead from the first leg.
Standard Liege play Lierse and their coach José Riga has announced to the press that his opponents have started 2012 well, which is true. He presumably wants to guard against over optimism. Standard start with a one-goal advantage and normally that should be enough with the Sclessin crowd behind them. It’s a sign of the competition’s problems however that only 5,000 are expected to turn up tonight. New signing Birkir Bjarnason could start on the bench. Lierse will probably field a side similar to the one that defeated Gent last weekend.
In the other matches, Mons take a two-goal lead to third division Rupel Boom, the conquerors of Anderlecht. Mons are keen to reach the final and won’t want to slip up – the capacity at Boom is 3,000 and that should mean a great atmosphere.
Finally, second-place Gent entertain Lokeren and, yes, the first leg – as befits Lokeren – was a draw. A 2-2 result tonight would see Lokeren qualify for the semi-finals and that can’t be totally ruled out. NB: Lokeren have drawn six of their last seven league games.
Fixtures tonight (1st leg result in brackets)
Standard Liege – Lierse (2-1)
Beerschot – Kortrijk (0-2)
Gent – Lokeren (1-1)
Rupel Boom – Mons (1-3)