Posted in Pro League in Europe

What Will Last Nights Defeat do to Club Brugge?

I knew Blauw-Zwart were playing last night, honestly I did, but I was too busy getting married. So I checked the result this morning and saw that unfortunately, the Champions League will have to be put on hold for another season. I’m gutted because firstly, unlike with English clubs, I genuinely want all Belgian clubs to succeed in Europe. Secondly, it means I can’t see Belgian clubs in the top competitions. Coefficient gets hit by this and if Anderlecht get an uneasy group, it could spell even more trouble.

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But I’ve said this before. If English Championship clubs can buy players from Champions League clubs across Europe for £15 million then what chance do Belgian clubs have? Last night you look at Istanbul Basaksehir and they Gael Clichy, Emre Belozoglu, Eljero Elia and Emmanuel Adebayor. All played at top clubs and in the Premier League very recently (apart from Elia) whereas Brugge are snapping up the best from the Pro League or good clubs in Europe, but not great clubs.

Playing in Turkey is always an uphill task due to the atmosphere and heat. An unfortunate 2-0 defeat is what happened with 2 first half strikes. However, with the first leg being a total disaster in the end, what if Brugge held on to that 2 goal advantage, just like the Turks did, we may be talking about progression. Giving the Belgians something to hold on to away, a performance where as long as you don’t concede is possibly easier than a match where you must score.

Club Brugge can look at some positives in that the Europa League is somewhat of a possibility if you go by Genk and Anderlecht’s brave journey last season, and with a minor miracle, it would be a great achievement if Oostende turned around the 2 goal deficit AND if Gent finally get their fingers out and actually perform this season, at home and abroad. Four teams in the Europa League is better than 2, and if they’re all of title winning quality, which they all are, then that enhances the Pro League’s chances.

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I’ll end by simply saying this experience should put Club Brugge in good stead in that they should never become complacent after the 3-3 draw last week and be happy and professional with any advantage you have. Big or small.

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Not The Best of Evenings…

Before tonight’s matches involving Oostende and Gent, I predicted certainly one win and hopefully a positive result in the South of France. My run of predictions at the start of this season hasn’t gone as well as thought. 

Beginning at Ghelamco Arena. Gent faced Altach and I truly believed it would be one way traffic. I wouldn’t even put it down to naivety. The Pro League is just vastly better than the Austrian Bundesliga in my opinion, and I think most of Europe would concur. Red Bull Salzburg have dominated Austrian football and still never participate in the Champions League, which isn’t something to really go by, but it’s not a positive.

So when Altach arrived, maybe Gent’s problem is that they were too confident? I don’t know. But a full strength Gent side were pegged back after just five minutes. That hit the Buffalos hard as it did take a second half substitute to save the day. Kalifa Coulibaly struck on the 76th minute to at least take a draw to Austria. Considering the time of the goal, Gent just couldn’t grab a winner and Altach go back the more satisfied.

In Marseille, a daunting task laid ahead for Oostende and to be honest, they performed so well. A 4-2 defeat, and most likely, elimination faces De Kustboys, but a battling perform against possibly one of the favourites out of all qualifiers to progress was always going to be challenging. Also…Valere Germain was in inspired form which doesn’t help.

Scoring a hat trick, starting in the 2nd minute, and rounding it off on the 82nd minute, he hit the killer blows just at the right time. Firstly, to stifle Oostende, and secondly, to dampen any hopes of a revival at the Versluys. Sebastien Siani and Knowledge Musona hit the goals which do keep Oostende in the tie, but the likelihood of progression does look bleak.

All in all, not a vintage week for Belgian football in Europe. The chances of all three qualifying look extremely slim, but hopefully my streak of incorrect predictions can carry on!

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Belgium in Europe

A bit late, mainly because I was in transit and…I’m on holiday. I have been away before and blogged about Belgium, and, funnily enough, that was whilst Belgian teams were in Europe. This time though, instead of being in a fairly chilly Berlin, I am in scorching hot Paphos! 

All of that is irrelevant to an actual Belgian football blog. I’m clearly padding out a post which is simply about three Belgian teams in Europe. One from last night and the other 2 for tonight, which are yet to commence. And if the 2 playing tonight are as good, entertainment wise, rather than the result, then it could be a fantastic night!

Club Brugge dominated and then through away a result in style against Istanbul Basaksehir at the Jan Breydel Stadion. After new signing Bonaventure put the Blauw-Zwart ahead early, things were looking good in Ivan Leko’s first competitive match. Stefano Denswil made it even better, taking Club Brugge into half time with a 2-0 lead!

Then the Turks could’ve ruined the night…well let’s face it…they did. A 2-0 lead with 45 minutes to go was turned around in the space of 30 minutes. The second goal from Basaksehir once promising Dutch winger Eljero Elia, was something special. If it wasn’t him it was Marcio Mossaro. Either way it was a strike! But when Denswil… theres a way (get it?) meaning the defender saved a draw from defeat withnanother direct free kick. 

It’s nothing to do with Ivan Leko and Brugge’s failure in the Champions League. They just can’t perform in the competition, just like last season, and tell Manchester United fans. It’s a shame but with an uphill task in Istanbul, it’s unlikely there’ll be two Belgian teams in the Champions League this season in my opinion.

Tonight sees Oostende make their own history travelling to Marseille. This will be tough. The Velodrome is always fiery and Oostende are total novices in Europe. Their hope is a decent result tonight with at worst a goal deficit to take back to the Versluys Arena. Gent play Austrians Altach at the Ghelamco Arena. Unlike De Kustboys, I see the Buffalos progressing overall and taking a nice lead away with them. 

Bit of a brief round up compared to a six goal thriller from last night, but all I hope is positive results for Belgian clubs abroad, unless it against my team!

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Europe Beckons for These Three…

Today is the day where Club Brugge, Gent and Oostende have found out who they’ll face, qualifying for the Champions League and Europa League. 

Personally, I think Club Brugge have had a reasonably good draw. All opponents, whether they’re good or not, always have their positives and negatives. Out of interest for whoever reads this, the Blauw-Zwart drew Istanbul Başakşehir from Turkey, obviously. When I think of Istanbul…..hir I think, unfortunately, I think about Emmanuel Adebayor who briefly played for them last season. 

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But back to the club, finishing behind Beşiktas (I believe) is a very good effort, mainly because they were above Fenebahce and Galatasaray in the process. Also, a long journey to Turkey isn’t ideal, especially when it will be hot there! With the second leg being in Turkey, a good result at home is vital and Ivan Leko would love nothing more than a positive result in his early tenure at the helm of the Brugge management.

Gent and Oostende also had a European draw of their own today and it is safe to say, the tastiest draw regarded Oostende as they face Marseille! Fair to mention that this is a huge European opener for De Kustboys in their maiden season in Europe. 

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Unfortunately I have a bad feeling as Marseille have received some money from the ownership and the Stade Velodrome is considered one of the most hostile environments in European football, along with the fact that the Versluys Arena…well…isn’t. A clash of the European seafronts in this one.

Gent return to the Europa league after a mixed campaign last term, defeating Premier League runners up Tottenham before being torn apart by Genk in the next round. This year they start their journey in either Belarus or Austria against Dynamo Brest or Altich respectively. Honestly, this is a good draw on the surface because I consider Gent are far more superior than their potential opposition, and with Yuya Kubo available for selection this season in Europe, that’ll help their cause all the way to wherever they end up in the tournament.

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A mix bag of results really from the draw, but European football can throw up surprises now and again. Of course I hope all 3 succeed and crack on, but who knows…? 

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Double Misery with Heads Held High!

With a place in the semi finals up for grabs, Anderlecht and Genk had to show passion, courage and energy to overcome their opponents. Both definitely needing a goal, that would be enough if they could defend. I’m somebody who’d rather go down fighting, and with both easing their way towards a title and a domestic Europa League play off respectively, without embarrassing themselves, if they do show will and determination, could they prove doubters and progress to the semi finals?

Let’s kick off with Anderlecht, who I’m sure would’ve expected a fast start from their hosts, hoping they may reduce United to long shots and frustrate….That lasted all of 10 minutes when the familiar face from the first leg, Henrik Mkhitaryan, popped up to take an early 1-0 lead. Man Utd would’ve loved that. Easing themselves into the match and following on from their weekend momentum. As the first half wore on Anderlecht were finding their way and could’ve drawn level a couple of times, until skipper Sofiane Hanni did just that after the half hour. Les Mauves have been written off massively in England and yet again they proved they are capable of matching anyone if they ride their luck, play their football and take their chances.

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In an evenly contested first half on chances, Les Mauves would love another opportunity. Another goal would mean 2 would be needed for the Red Devils. As the second half wore on, Anderlecht were growing in confidence matching Manchester United fantastically well. The Pro League league leaders were only missing that vital goal, but still were defensively strong not to throw away their chances altogether! 

Simultaneously, Genk, who have been outstanding recently welcomed Celta Vigo to the Luminus Arena. After a goal deficit from the first leg, Genk needed all their firepower bringing back some familiar faces themselves to the starting eleven. The first half however didn’t have much to shout about. Very cagey with both sides cancelling each other out, it was perfect for the Spaniards, knowing a clean sheet was all that was needed, or even just a draw for that matter. The only worry is that De Smurfen don’t get too nervous that they don’t create more than preserving their own clean sheet. There’s no point going out with a whimper!

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As the second half wore on however, Celta were hoping to take the game into their own hands, meaning Genk would have to get a goal quick. Unfortunately, Pione Sisto struck again, much like Mkhitaryan in the Anderlecht game, scoring in both legs. The problem is his goal could be more critical than the Armenian’s. A swift reply was needed, and thankfully, Sisto must’ve woken Genk as the Belgian’s took just 4 minutes to get right back into the tie! Leandro Trossard with a strike that levelled the match on the night and would hopefully swing the pendulum in Genk’s favour. 
As time ticked on in both matches, nothing changed​ with the scoreline. Anderlecht were doing so well leading up to extra time knowing a break away or a set piece would mean the tie. Genk on the other hand were slowly drifting towards elimination, where their valiant effort in the competition was coming to an end. With the last final few minutes could either take the game by the scruff of the neck and represent Belgium further into the competition?  

Unfortunately on one side of the coin, Genk couldn’t progress. Celta did what they needed to do on the night and without for the want of trying, Genk fought, just not hard enough on the night, knowing that their domestic form is their best route into Europe for sure next season. 

Les Mauves however went into extra time. Magnificent effort from themselves hoping that if the luck was with them anything could happen in that final half an hour or even from the penalty spot eventually! But with the first half over in a flash, whatever Mourinho said worked at the break in extra time, as Marcus Rashford made Anderlecht heart’s sink with a 107th minute goal. Still time of course, but much like Genk, it was a race against the clock to see if they could steal an equaliser. The only problem was that United look closer to extending their lead rather than losing their place in the competition. 

All you can say is that Anderlecht were brilliant. They matched Manchester United in both ties in that the English giants couldn’t breakdown their Belgian counterparts. Needing extra time, Les Mauves should go on domestically and control the league personally and in some way, the performance in both legs is something of a positive, knowing they were superb frankly going as far as they did. 

You could say congratulations and commiserations to both Genk and Anderlecht!

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Could It Happen?

I mean it, could it happen in the Europa League tonight? It’s certainly not impossible but definitely tough. Both teams technically have a deficit. One certainly does and the other has ONLY if they don’t score.

The side who definitely have a deficit is Genk. The team have been performing outstandingly recently and I do believe that have the capabilities of overturning the 3-2 scoreline at ‘half time’ in the tie. The team from Limburg put in a great performance Sunday evening away at Kortrijk winning 3-0 and without having to play the big guns who’ll be well rested for tonight. 

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De Smurfen have only conceded 2 goals at home in Europe all season and have won every game too which is a great sign. Winning every game whilst conceding a maximum of 1 goal, if they have conceded, would progress the side as long as they win. In a way, it’s better they HAVE to win because if Celta Vigo feel they only have to draw, it’ll be a bit of a Catch 22 situation, and a goal for the home side could potentially create panic for the Spaniards. Celta also won 3-0 away at the weekend and also were able to rest players as well so this match is so finely poised, it could be the tie of the round?
Closer to my home anyway, Anderlecht travel to United with both teams on top form. Anderlecht grew their domestic lead on Sunday, whereas Manchester United won 2-0 against the champions elect in the Premier League. Anderlecht played a very strong team on Sunday, surprisingly in my opinion, but I stated on Monday that wrapping up the league is probably likelier than maybe continental success, but keeping the rust away, maybe that was Rene Weiler’s plan. 

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The Red Devils had no option but to play a strong team against Chelsea Sunday, so it could be a tiring, fascinating and possibly electric tie in the form of both teams wanting success, and probably one needing it more than the other. Manchester United will feel the Europa League is theirs with the money spent and quality on show. The experience of their players shouldn’t show fear, but if it’s looking edgy, Les Mauves may capitalise on that and possibly strike and then Man United will have to show what they’re made of. Not seeing at the win in the first leg shows there are weaknesses, especially if Sergio Romero starts. Not that he isn’t a good goalkeeper, but we all know De Gea is better.
If the impossible became possible, and if both teams stayed clear of each other, the likely opponents after the first leg look to be Ajax and Besiktas. Both very tough, and one being a Belgian-Dutch derby, it could be a fantastic semi final setting up a trip to Sweden overall. But I’ll try not to get too ahead of myself and simmer down, after all, if it all stayed as it is now they’re both out, but that’s why we love football…Anything can happen!

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The Belgians Did Alright! 

With a tough night, a result for either of the Belgian sides would’ve been a tough ask. Going by this morning’s post, Genk’s dreadful form in Spain and Anderlecht facing Manchester United, hope was needed, luck and a whole lot of effort!

On a switch up from yesterday, I’m starting with De Smurfen, as Genk had a difficult away tie against Celta. For me, and them, a score draw would be fantastic and an away win would be unbelievable. And with the early exchanges, the dream start came through young Dutchman JeanPaul Boetius, picked out by Leandro Trossard. But…There is such thing as scoring too early. Celta took just 5 minutes to respond through Pione Sisto. After that, Celta took control of the half as Iago Aspas completed the turnaround. All of this before the twenty minute mark. In quite an evenly contested half, it was a case of who’d take their chances, and the Swede John Guidetti added a goal to his earlier assist to make it 3-1 before the half, making the rest of the game and the tie look beyond Genk’s reach.

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With the game toing and froing, still an evenly fought second half, but with time ticking, could Genk get themselves back into the tie, let alone the match? And they did! Thomas Buffel showing his experience and with that, taking charge and being the example, bringing another goal back to the Luminus Arena! 3-2 to the Spaniards with just over 20 minutes to go. Game On! 

With the clock ticking away, this result is positive due to the away goals, and at home, Genk can be formidable and can go through which would be unreal and brilliant no matter how you look at it!
Meanwhile closer to home, Anderlecht had possibly an even tougher task against Man United. All the talk in England was about how many Manchester United would get which I thought was a bit patronising, with the only 2 players brought to the English audience being Tielemans and Dendoncker. The difference between this match and Genk’s going by the stats is that this wasn’t as even. The Red Devils controlled the chances and possession. To hold out for ninety minutes would be a big ask even at home, but one of United’s major signings of many on the night Henrik Mkhitaryan netted, grabbing that vital away goal late in the first half. Hopefully Rene Weiler can spring a surprise in the second half!

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With the second half kicking off, Les Mauves would’ve preferred a quick response if that were possible, but that wasn’t to come. They needed to do something, although a 1 goal deficit to take to England isn’t awful, just not the best. The problem is, Jose Mourinho can be magnificent in Europe, home and away, and a defensive masterclass from United would probably thrill him as much, if not more, than the win. But magnificently​, the aforementioned Dendoncker sprung up to net a vital equaliser in the 86th minute, creating a grandstand finish, and if not that, a scintillating away leg at Old Trafford! 
A fantastic draw for Anderlecht, where I previously said they were written off in England, they proved a lot in Europe wrong, and a lot to themselves squaring up and taking on a huge team and equalling them! 

A wonderful night all round! 

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Flying The Flag Tonight!

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. 

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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, Im sure he’d love to show his talent in the Balaídos! 

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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.

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What Does the Future Hold?

Last night the Europa League results proved nothing really. On paper people would’ve said Anderlecht would’ve disposed of APOEL and after a thrashing in the first leg, Genk were already through to the next round too.

Genk vs Gent was the early fixture including Belgian sides and it was evenly contested. Not just through the result, the statistics proved it too. Genk to a first half lead which definitely put the tie to bed twenty minutes in, as Jean-Paul Boetius set up Thomas Castagne to see the game off. Gent needed an onslaught from the off but as that never happened, an equaliser was all that they could muster late in the game through Louis Verstraete. I guess they saved some face after the first leg, but nonetheless they go out with a whimper and Genk progress!

In the late game, Anderlecht just couldn’t afford to lose really, so a win or draw would see progression. Looking at the way the match went, I’m not quite sure how APOEL were to go about overturning their 1-0 deficit, and quite frankly, that never looked like happening. Man of the Europa League Frank Acheampong came up with the goods in the second half to seal the win. I personally thought he wouldn’t start, which was true, but didn’t know he’d have a big impact like against Zenit St Petersburg in the first leg of the previous round. An inspired substitution, he came on for Nicolae Stanciu and scored a minute later.

A fantastic outcome for Belgian sides to progress and hopefully a nice quarter final draw will work out for the pair…
Anderlecht vs Manchester United

Celta Vigo vs Genk

Half decent i guess but who knows…?

Posted in Pro League in Europe

The Night of Reckoning

So…Tonight we’ll find out who will be in the quarter finals of the Europa League. Is it facetious to say Genk are already through? Mbwana Samatta is red hot right now and at home, it could prove to be a step too far for Gent, even with Jeremy Perbet wholl look to make up for his penalty miss in the last match and he has been fantastic in Europe this season. 

Reading that paragraph back, i have gone straight in there and described who may be the difference, but if you break it down, a 5-2 lead for Genk looks insurmountable for the visitors to turn around. To score 4 unanswered goals they literally have nothing to lose tonight and it could be all out attack. If Yuya Kubo was eligible, it actually may prove to be different. He has been extraordinarily good since his arrival, but the turnaround looks unlikely.

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If you look at league form, and that can be relevant in this case, Genk have the joint 4th best home form in the Pro League, whereas Gent have the 11th best (or 6th worst) away form in the league. Like I’ve stated, this is the ultimate of all one offs due to the circumstances, but the hill they have the climb is almost a vertical downward line!
To the later match, Anderlecht take a 1-0 away win back to the Constant Vanden Stock. Like previous rounds, Rene Weiler has tested some of his more important players and gone with Frank Acheampong and Isaac Kiese Thelin instead of Belgium’s top scorer Lukasz Teodorczyk. I think tonight may be a bit different. Not that that pairing isn’t capable, i just think going for a striker and settled line up, for the chance to be in the quarter finals, is more of a way to go. 

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Bringing that away goal back home as well may prove to be key as well. Away goals in Europe are always pivotal. Let’s just hope Les Mauves take their league form into Europe and see to teams from Belgium through. Without tempting fate, I’m still confident Anderlecht won’t let Belgium down tonight, but to have 25% of the Europa League based in Belgium is a huge achievement. And let’s hope they don’t draw each other IF Anderlecht qualify, although to have a certainty in the semi final would be fantastic as well!
Talk soon