And to be honest, it’s a shame only 50% of the Belgian teams have progressed this far. I know, what am I saying? Two teams from Belgium have progressed to the quarter finals. The most amount of representatives from one country has reached this far and those teams are Genk and Anderlecht, but if the draw was…erm…kinder, maybe there’d be more if Gent weren’t drawn against Genk. But unfortunately for fans of Belgian football, and of those teams, they’re out.
Both matches kick off simultaneously tonight, but we’ll start with the most successful team in Belgium versus the most successful team in England. Anderlecht vs Manchester United is a huge match tonight, with both teams coming into the match in form, well, I say form, Anderlecht definitely are with themselves topping the Pro League. Whereas United are on a long unbeaten run in the league, but due to the competition, they’re still outside the top 4!
These 2 have had previous before in European competition, meeting 17 years ago, when Youri Tielemans was just 2! It was a Champions League group stage match, where if it were knock out, Man Utd would’ve progressed 6-3 on aggregate, but as it was a group match, Anderlecht actually topped the group, beating Manchester United on the way 2-1 at The Constant Vanden Stock 2-1 thanks to two first half goals from Tomasz Radzinski.
Fast forwarding, much like some of my posts, things have changed since then. The gap between these two financially is MASSIVE, but on the pitch, even though there is a wealth of talent in the Man United ranks, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised is Les Mauves progress, as Old Trafford isn’t a place where home wins happen too often this season. As long as Anderlecht aren’t nervous then anything is possible in my opinion.
In the other fixture, Genk travel to northern Spain, just above Portugal where they take on Celta Vigo. Genk have been to Spain already this season where they unfortunately lost 5-3 to Athletic Bilbao. But with a 2-0 reverse Genk would’ve qualified, if it wasn’t a group match. Hopefully something similar may happen again, but with no win in Spain in European competition ever, it may be a tough task tonight where Celta have never lost to Belgian opposition.
The ask may be tougher without Naranjo up front for Genk too. The Spaniard has been in top form, scoring 2 in 2 since the play offs began, including the winner last Saturday, but coming on loan from Celta Vigo and having already played in the Europa League this season for his parent club, he is ineligible tonight. With another Spaniard in Alejandro Pozuelo, I‘m sure he’d love to show his talent in the Balaídos!
If we go on form too for the respective sides, Genk are right on it, undefeated since late February, whereas Celta Vigo have lost their last 2 alone. Obviously though, this is a cup competition, 5 matches from potentially lifting the trophy, so a good performance and luck is all that matters for not only Genk, but Anderlecht as well.