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Player Profile: Marcus Ingvartsen 

It’s not how it looks honest! Okay, it does. I’ve jumped on the band wagon. Flavour of the month in the Limburges region where a young Danish striker has helped hugely in the past couple of matches for De Smurfen. Marcus Ingvartsen has proved an inspired signing right this second and may continue his form this weekend.

At 21 he moved from Nordsjaelland in his native country and in all honesty, if it wasn’t for the last couple of key performances, he wouldn’t be spoken about right now. I won’t lie. But he deserves recognition in a struggling side who are now under 24/7 surveillance by the looks of things as the Luminous Arena turns into the Big Brother house! 

However, Marcus has only completed three 90 minute matches in the league this season, but then again there is a fight for those attacking places. Siebe Schrijvers, Mbwanna Samatta, and he may well have gotten his chance through luck with Leandro Trossard and Nikos Karelis out injured. But in all fairness he has been taking his chance with both hands.

He did come with a very good scoring record too, averaging nearly a goal every 2 matches. At 21 he looks to have a bright future in a tougher and bigger league. And with this weekend, another massive test with Genk travelling to Brussels. Anderlecht will be smarting after their recent drubbing to PSG, but league form has been a lot better for the Champions as they climb the table. In honesty, I do think Les Mauves will win and win well.

Genk’s league form has been below average as they sit in 11th with only a 20% win record. No fault of Ingvartsen at all. In fact, he has gained the club 2 points through equalisers. But away this Sunday I just feel it’ll be a tough ask, with this being a good test for him and Genk and maybe produce a scalp too in the process. 

Pictures courtesy of Getty Images

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Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Omar Govea

In this section I am trying to pick a player from each club once throughout the season, as its only fair, and with tomorrow being Genk vs Mouscron, why not pick one of the pivotal players for the rejuvenated club who stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season. 

And as mention, at the Luminus Arena there’ll be a fine midfielder on show. Fluent in Spanish, pulls the strings, can score and assist, yes that’s right…Omar Govea! You wasn’t thinking Pozuelo were you? Anyway, the young Mexican has been possibly one of the signings of the summer. On loan from Porto he has helped revitalize this club who, if I’m honest, I’d written off the summer.

Since his arrival, the club have found themselves in 3rd! And he has a lot to do with that. Aiding with 3 goals and an assist, it’s his off the ball defensively which is key for the team. For me, he seems like a leader who has settled quicker than snowing that central midfield position.

You can also kind of see that he does play a deeper role as he always finds space outside of the box for his long range efforts, rather than a six yard tap in. He can be deadly accurate from distance and against a Genk side who will probably be more cautious against this Mouscron side, they will still feel the need to ‘ve the more attack minded side, which may be hard work for the diminutive Mexican, but may also find him with space bow and again to pick his passes, and maybe, his spot in the top corner.

The last time these 2 met in Genk, well, the less said the better for the visitors as they were destroyed 6-0 in last season’s play offs, but you won’t have to go back to far for Mouscron’s last away win there, with an impressive 4-0 away win almost 2 years ago to the day. I’m sure both teams will score, and Mouscron will want to put their last result behind, surprisingly throwing away a 2 goal lead against Mechelen, which could now be a wake up call to not be too complacent.

When all said and done, Govea will hope to put in his typical, quality performance tomorrow and come next July, I’m sure the club from the Stade Canonnier would love to make his deal permanent!
(Pictures courtesy of Getty Images) 

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Player Profile: Davino Verhulst

Of anyone reads this, I like to share out my PP’s amongst all clubs across the season and with this week being a tough week for Lokeren, I thought I’d put Davino Verhulst under the microscope. It’s tough to talk about Lokeren in my opinion. Awful start seeing their manager, possibly prematurely sacked, and since then the club have levelled out in the league, beating or getting points off of those around them, and putting in spirited performances against better clubs, unfortunately always ending in defeat.

This week Lokeren travel to Zulte Waregem. One of the toughest fixtures they’ll play this season. A club that seem stable and ‘normal’ compared to a lot of the other bigger clubs in Belgium right now. With quality, a settled squad and a very good manager. That’s why I’ve decided to pick the goalkeeper. I did that with Bolat at Antwerp on the first day and a clean sheet came his way.

The problem with Lokeren is that the playing staff are unpredictable. You don’t know who’ll turn up on the day and make the difference. But Verhulst has patiently waited for his first run as a first choice, nearly across his career (correct me if I’m wrong) and he had some big gloves to fill.

Since Copa Barry has left he has been a mainstay in the starting line up. Keeping just one clean sheet however, of course he’ll know that’s unacceptable, but clean sheets don’t just come down to the goalkeeper. I guess the only thing is that some matches the club would target a blank than others. Without putting my neck on the line, I’m certain there’ll be goals at the Regenboogstadion against the Tricolores, but a winning performance is needed more.

A bit of a brief write up, the former Beveren and Genk keeper will just have to be courage, focussed and hope that either the hosts have an off day, or that his defence are more solid than they have been in recent matches. I guess a negative is the positive performance, in defeat, but Zulte Waregem on Thursday, and maybe they’ll take it out on Lokeren come Sunday night.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images

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Player Profile: Franck Berrier

This week I went through the fixtures and was undecided on who to go with. Then again, there is currently one club in a desperate situation and they are KV Oostende. This week as well, they lost their leader in the dugout. When Yves Vanderhaeghe left, many may have been upset, yet many may have felt it was needed. Now the manager has gone, does the second oldest player in the squad, the one who keeps the team ticking, the play maker Franck Berrier, does he take the mantle as leader? 

It has been a tough season for the Frenchman. Not because of poor form but because of the joint effort reflected in the clubs results. Scoring just one goal this season, the player will probably be his own worse critic with no assists. The reason it has also been tough individually is because he was sidelined for 3 matches with a thigh problem. 

This week however, the club did finally grab their first win in any competition, defeating Union Saint Gilloise 3-1 and Berrier helped himself to a couple of assists. I guess the only problem is that De Kustboys face Genk who’ll be smarting from their derby defeat to STVV last week and may want to exact some damage on the league’s bottom club at the Luminus Arena.

This season is the Frenchman’s 5th season at the Versluys Arena, and the wiley midfielder knows his way around the Pro League already plying his trade at Zulte Waregem and Standard Liege. A quality player on his day, maybe the Belgian league equivalent to Santi Cazorla. Technically good with a pass and an eye for goal. If things start clicking between Berrier and Zinho Gano, it could still work out to be a good season in the end, considering how it has started. 

I’m just sure that Oostende won’t go much longer without a win. Why not tomorrow against Genk whilst they’re against the ropes themselves? 

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Player Profile: Yohan Boli

This season is 6 weeks old. Twenty per cent of the regular season is over and the unpredictable nature of the league will hopefully continue. A plethora of top strikers within the league vying for glory as a team and as the Taureau D’or with Lukasz Teodorcyzk, Henry Onyekuru, Emmanuel Bonaventure, Zinho Gano, etc, etc…but so far, another player in the mix isn’t just fighting amongst a league of top strikers, but with the front men at his own club.

Yohan Boli has competition in training everyday which has surely helped he perform on the pitch! Scoring in big matches against big opposition, the 24 year old has been pivotal to all of Sint Truiden’s successes so far this term. The club have had a shakier start off the pitch rather than on it with Tintin Marquez already leaving, but the group as a whole have stayed focussed throughout.

This weekend is a huge match as Genk travel to the Staaien in the Limburg derby, where unfortunately for De Kanaries, the visitors have held the bragging rights for quite sometime. I’m sure the Frenchman will relish this match to not only steal the show, but also to show others that as a club, STVV’s start is far from a fluke.

In his 3rd season at the club now, he is growing with each season and is already a couple of goals off of last season’s tally already. Looking to firstly eclipse last season’s total, next it will surely be for the club to continue down this road of fine performances. His form hasn’t been unnoticed either, after being selected for the Ivory Coast earlier this month too (if my research is correct). 

From a personal point of view, and I was having this discussion the other day, when you see that a team has scored, one name comes to your head immediately, and with STVV, that name in all honesty is Yohan Boli first…then Igor Vetokele, but this isn’t about him right now unfortunately. 

I’ll sum up by saying this will be tough. It may be cagey and Sint Truiden really need to start coming to the party in this derby. You can’t beat Anderlecht away and then cower from your local rivals who aren’t on the same level as Les Mauves. In what will hopefully be a packed house, somebody will need to have an ice cold head in a hit situation, hopefully for him (and for the sake of this piece) it’s Boli.

All pictures courtesy of Getty images

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Player Profile: Paul-Jose Mpoku

With Belgian football back in business, there’s a few players I could’ve chosen. I nearly wrote about Zinho Gano for the second time this season. Maybe ANY Anderlecht player because of their start. And the list of clubs and players go on. But I’ve gone for PJ Mpoku. Not only are Standard Liege struggling right now, they’re shipping goals without reply.

The Congolese striker has featured in every match so far this season and has been vital, scoring the winner in the sides only win this season at home against Genk. It’s not his fault with how the club have played this season. Individual errors have cost the side as well as ill discipline, especially against Sint Truiden, and that isn’t the fault of Mpoku.

The problem for the 25 year old is that he will be looked to for goals. With this ongoing suspension saga that I keep getting notifications about for Orlando Sa, and now the loan of Ishak Belfodil to Werder Bremen, he will be looked at for goals. Goals thankfully come from all areas for Les Rouches, however, they have dried up as of late, and the problem with being a striker occasionally, is that if you don’t score, you either face the drop or criticism. That, again, doesn’t only fall on the shoulders of Paul-Jose, and of course every striker wants to score in every game, but with this weekend being against Charleroi, it’s shown that these run of recent fixtures against Zulte Waregem and then Club Brugge has proven that maybe Standard aren’t up to the challenge of a title push this season.

Without sounding too dramatic, only 5 matches have been played, but before the likes of Brugge, Zulte, and with potentially Charleroi this weekend, they could all pull away early on, and points missed out on now aren’t guaranteed later. It has been a funny season though. With Standard currently 12th, which isn’t great, they’re only one point behind Anderlecht, with Mechelen, Gent and Oostende below them too, proving how unpredictable this season is thus far. Without being too pessimistic, I’m sure Ricardo Sa Pinto will take any positives. A goal? A clean sheet? Even a competitive performance. But if the worst were to happen this Sunday, Mpoku would love a goal, and along with that, I’m sure he will look more towards positive performances in the Derby the week after, and against Lokeren after that!

I hope Standard kick on because I want competitiveness throughout the league, although I have been impressed by Charleroi who battle in every minute, but Liege are too big to be sitting in mid table and I’m sure things will turn around with the quality within their squad!

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Player Profile: Stefan Mitrovic

I rarely ever do Player Profiles about defenders because they don’t always influence a match. If they do, it tends to be through red cards, own goals, conceding penalties, errors etc. But this weekend sees a so far hapless Gent side host champions Anderlecht (who have been equally as hapless) but this could be the match that ignites the touch paper for De Buffalos. Let’s have it right, they’ve gone out of Europe, lost to Sint Truiden, Antwerp and were embarrassed last time out away to, who I thought were relegation fodder before a ball was kicked, Mouscron. A point away to Mechelen was gained, although it was technically 2 lost.

Without being too negative, I’m not pointing fingers at individuals, although Lovre Kalinic didn’t cover himself well, but it’s more of a team problem. This is where my Player Profile comes in. Stefan Mitrovic, now in his 3rd season at the club, will hope the club turns it’s form around. Playing every minute this season, not that he wouldn’t have encountered this individually, but the club haven’t really been in a rut like this in his tenure. What I mean is, Gent are a big club who rub shoulders with the top 6 regularly.

The Serbian has a wealth of experience too, playing in 7 countries! So he’ll have to draw on all his experiences and adversities to turn the clubs fortunes around. But let’s face it, I’ve chosen to write about Stefan because this is a huge match this Sunday. Anderlecht are coming to town. The Ghelamco Arena will be rocking. Hopefully an atmosphere that the visitors won’t enjoy, although they have been in many a hostile environment, and Mitrovic will have to be on top of his game. With a quadrant of Onyekuru, Teodorczyk, Hanni and Bruno coming his way, he’ll have to use his organisational skills, dedication and commitment to want to stop this formidable front 4.

I’ve always been a believer that footballers get paid to concentrate for 90 minutes. If everyone did their job every weekend then we’d only have nil-nil scorelines. And it starts with a defence more than a goalkeeper in some aspects as if they position themselves correctly, they can cut out any chances before they begin. Is Stefan was to read this, it may get into his head where focussing on his communication and where to be, as well as thinking about where to be and what to do, without complicating things, he could well have a comfortable weekend?

Beyond this match things should turn around. Two things we always learn from football. Firstly, the cream rises to the top. Secondly, league positions tend to full into place by which club pays the best wages (it does in England anyway) meaning Gent will turn it around. I believe in the manager and the players anyway. A bad start also tends to mean a good finish. Gent finished fantastically last season sneaking it to 3rd spot when all said and done, and with Stefan Mitrovic being a leader in that changing room, I’m sure things will get better, hopefully starting Sunday…

(All pictures courtesy of Getty Images)

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Player Profile: Stefan Drazic

Last weeks PP was nothing more than a disappointment regarding Nicolas Verdier. That is unfair as Eupen haven’t adapted to the loss of Henry Onyekuru at all, but I digress. The young Serbian Stefan Drazic has joined the Pro League and started fantastically well. Scoring after 7 minutes on his debut against a Standard Liege team, who I thought, would be challenging this season, and still might.

Mechelen have had a tough start to the season. Not because they haven’t won, but because of the opposition. Playing against Standard, a Ryota Morioka inspired Beveren and a spirited Gent side who claimed their first point of the season, De Kakkers have remained unbeaten, which isn’t actually too bad in my opinion. The Serb has taken to life at the AFAS Stadion quite well, claiming that goal in the first match, and an assist too.

Last term in the Serbian SuperLiga, he joined FK Vozdovac, based in his home city of Serbia, and performed reason well at his new club. There for one season before moving, he notched up 9 goals in all competitions and 1 assist. Vozdovac finished 7 in the table (basically mid table), which was the same place as the season before, but there were 4 more league matches played last season due to a new league setup, which Belgians will all know about themselves!

Up next for Mechelen is a tough match against promoted Antwerp. Both teams have been extremely respectful to eachother on Twitter, but it’ll be a battle on the pitch. Antwerp have had a mixed start, winning, losing and drawing their matches so far, but in honesty, I believe they’ve had an even tougher start, playing 2 of last season’s top three already, and taking 4 points off of them! Last week was a reality check, losing 5-3 at home to Genk, when at one point they were 5-1 down. This is why this match is so fascinating. One team looking for their first victory, whereas the other is looking for a response from a setback.

More than likely, it may end in a draw, mainly because Antwerp will hope to keep it tight in my opinion, but I may be wrong? Mechelen will need to find their form of last season, which was impressive. They’ll also need to have the courage of their convictions and play with a little less fear and have the confidence to take the game to Antwerp tomorrow night! And with Stefan Drazic, they may well have found a gem. If he carries on with his decent form of a goal and an assist, he could prove a steal ahead of Mechelen’s rivals and maybe be the difference, not just this weekend, but in the future too…

(All pictures courtesy of Getty Images)

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Player Profile: Nicolas Verdier

Looking across the matches in the Pro League, I felt which team needed three points the most? Of course, 3 points is vital to every club. Every club needs a win, and the way sackings are occurring, managers need them more! And really, possibly none more than Jordi Condom.

That’s where Nicolas Verdier comes in. The 30 year old Frenchman is, of sorts, the replacement for Henry Onyekuru. Since the Nigerian has left, goals will need to be spread around the team or picked up by an individual. For the Pandas sake, they’ll hope it’s Verdier.

Eupen have had a terrible start. Eight goals conceded isn’t great, but then again, they have had the 2 teams sitting top of the table right now. As tough a start as Antwerp, yet Antwerp have dealt with their matches far better. Nicolas Verdier was not only signed to replace goals, but hopefully add experience through his age. With such a young squad at the Kehrweg stadium, his experience, sprinkled with some others, will be pivotal this term.

With a modest career, his never performed at a ‘big club’ mainly making his big break when he signed for Mechelen in 2015. Scoring 9 goals in the regular season last season, including one against Eupen, he’ll hope to do better this season, mainly because he’ll surely get more minutes, plus, with tche amount of goals Eupen managed to score last term, it’ll be either down to the individual being clinical when the chances come, or Eupen being that attackingly open (most likely a mixture of both). 

With Kortrijk up next, Eupen would like to start their season as of tomorrow. Any result can literally happen between these 2 in my opinion, with Kortijk being more unpredictable compared to last season, as in they may be more consistent? All I’m hopeful of is a good match and for my sake, for Verdier to at least put in a performance for this post, and, for an evenly contested match.

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Player Profile: Zinho Gano

I’ve been thinking about who to write about this week because I was thinking another goalkeeper. But going back to last season, I think 2 of my last 3 or 4 have been about goalkeepers. Plus, Zinho Gano deserves some of my attention if I’m honest. Well…That’s what I believe.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Last week the tall Belgian (although I swear I’ve referred to him as Brazilian) was fantastic. Away at Genk he stole the show, albeit in a 3-3 draw, but his composure in the last minute to level the match looked a fine and level finish. With his 2 goals in the match, that put him in the UNIBET team of the week, along with my Player Profile from last week! 

Gano has a few strings to his bow too. Very good in the air, wiry, can get in behind defences and physically strong. Perfect for Beveren who are fortunate to have him, although similarly, he is lucky to have Beveren. Personally, I thought the lanky front man finished the season and play offs very well, especially after the tough start to the play offs that Waasland Beveren had. 

I feel slightly guilty because I honestly think he is a decent player. He gets on the scoresheet often for a team where they aren’t expected to win regularly and he does himself proud in some performances. The reason I feel guilty, before I digressed, is because I feel slightly hungover still and I’ve written this later than I’d hoped! 

Courtesy of Getty Images

Beveren vs Mechelen is a match where both teams are aiming to get their first wins. Phillipe Clement has seen his side come back from a setback, which is one positive. But has also seen his side go from a 2 goal lead, to a one goal deficit in 35 minutes of football. Mechelen on the other hand need to learn that once you’re in a winning position, hold it for at least longer than a minute!

Big game at the Freethiel where the big players need to step up. For Beveren’s sake, they’ll hope it’s their talisman.