Posted in Pro League in Europe

Tough Night for Anderlecht

In build to tonight Anderlecht literally have nothing to lose. Zero points, no goals scored and 6 conceded. They’ve been so bad even Celtic beat them, which is no offense to Celtic,but it’s mainly because they can be awful outside of Glasgow. But besides that, in terms of glamour groups, you’d put Group B up there by stature of clubs. When the draw was made you’d be excited if you were an RSCA fan at the calibre of opposition, and in all honesty, praying for 3rd place.

However, the poor form in the league followed them abroad and have looked hapless. No Belgian side has won in any European match this season, qualifying or group stage. So Anderlecht aren’t the only disappointment. Hein Vanhaezebrouck has been part of that though with the poor showing with Gent against Altach. 

But with a clean slate with Les Mauves, no fingers will be pointed at him in the Champions League this season. With Paris Saint Germain up next, a star studded team who have embarrassed Anderlecht before at the Constant Vanden Stock with Zlatan and company, now come with Neymar and friends (and Cavani) and tough is an understatement. But sitting here in anticipation, Vanhaezabrouck actually has an impressive record in the Champions League group stage, getting out of a group where you’d think Gent had no chance.

Finishing second behind Zenit St Petersburg, and above Lyon and Valencia, De Buffalos really outshone themselves massively, falling at the next hurdle against a Wolfsburg side containing another familiar face tonight in Julian Draxler. Obviously now all three of those are quality Europa League teams now, but then they were decent, and above all else, it was Gent and Vanhaezebrouck’s first season in the competition. It does make you think he may know what his doing on the grandest of stages with ‘minnows’.

Unfortunately for him, he has a points, goal difference and games deficit before tonight which isn’t helpful and chances of being in Europe after Christmas looks more…impossible, rather than unlikely. Another unfortunate thing is that you can’t see a gluttony of quick fire goals tonight like last Friday, but you could envision 3 conceded again. As I’ve said, with nothing to lose could Anderlecht look to attack at home, or do they battle for a point, not knowing how important that could be when they travel to Scotland on match day 6? 

People in England after the last round of matches have honestly said Celtic could finish above Bayern Munich. Obviously that is feasible, but Jupp Heynckes isn’t a fool, especially in this competition. Meaning if Anderlecht gain draws before they play Celtic, and somehow win away, they could do what I feel is the impossible and go through to the Europa League. 

All said and done this is a tough task, starting with tonight, but even I have renewed optimism with HVB in charge and with a fresh, positive outlook, a hope for tonight is a tight defensive, clinical finishing and complacency from PSG.
All pictures courtesy of Getty images

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Posted in Pro League in Europe

Belgium in Europe

The title is not only imaginative but true too. The nation is within the continent. But moving on. The Pro League has been awful in European competition. So much so that out of 5, only 2 made the actual competitions they were meant to be in, and that’s only because they automatically qualified.

The thing is, as I was about to tear into every club, realistically, only 2 have let themselves down. Gent have been awful all season, only winning 2 matches this season, and one of those was against a second tier club. Altach were their only European opponents in the Europa League qualifiers and were embarrassed away in Austria.

The second team is Club Brugge who have been knocked out of 2 European competitions this season, without playing a ‘real’ match within those tournaments. They did have difficult matches to be fair, but, were so poor at home that they never gave themselves a chance abroad. Ruining any Champions League hopes throwing away a 2-0 lead, and then not scoring at all against AEK Athens. Not good enough on the European stage, no matter how right I was on Twitter and how wrong a good follower was! 

Oostende have gotten away with it as they did have Marseille. Now….the worst team in the top flight, for me, have been the best in Europe, because they performed admirably away in France and were unlucky at home against a too French side. Going by all of that, you do have to give them credit.

But with the 2 actual teams who I have entered Europe, they will be out before Christmas. Both in extremely difficult groups for their level, with Bayern and PSG in Anderlecht’s group. And Nice and Lazio in Zulte Waregem’s group, neither stood a chance. And with no second chances for Essevee, Anderlecht won’t get third at this rate as they lost to Celtic on Wednesday.

The reason I have written this is because NO BELGIAN CLUB HAS WON IN EUROPE AT ALL THIS SEASON. Embarrassing. With 5 teams, all within the top 6 last season, they’ve really let themselves down regardless of what I just typed. Anderlecht beat Zenit and took Manchester United to extra time last season. Gent beat Tottenham for Christ sake. 

What is happening? Genk didn’t qualify, and they wouldn’t have mattered going by their league form. Without being totally disrespectful, Mouscron, Sint Truiden and maybe Antwerp next season? If the current crop can’t do it, how the hell will they? And even if the usual suspects get their act together, who says they’ll crack in too? 

I know we’re only in September (just) but Europe will be out of the question in 2018 and I’ll already write off next season already. I’m never expecting a side from Belgium amongst Europe’s elite as a league or as a club. They are big names, but no longer. If the Scottish champions comfortably beat the Belgian champions, then something’s wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But with observation I just hope something happens. I expected more, but maybe when you’re not consistently in Europe, you forget how to play and deal with other styles…? 

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Sorry I’m Lazy

The title says it all. For those who stumble across my blog, I’m sorry for switching off. I posted 3 blog entries last Friday, and since then I have been quiet. Within that time in Belgium, Anderlecht finally scraped a win, Club Brugge lost their first league match of the season, Mouscron go from strength to strength, Oostende picked up their first point of the season and Charleroi went top! 

There was a feast of goals at the Freethiel where Eupen already looked doomed, regardless of Oostende’s start and Sunday saw 3 dour matches where only Charleroi benefited (looking from the outside). Add to that Anderlecht’s Champions League exploits where it was game over after 11 minutes? It’s been a combination of eventful, predictable and in some places…boring.

Looking ahead to tonight, Zulte Waregem kick off their European campaign themselves, at home against Nice. I have a special place for Nice because I love the place, but for the sake of my favouritism towards Belgian clubs, of course I want Essevee to win. If this match were played last season, I think it’d be a none contest, but at home, I think Zulte could get what they think will be a positive result.

Going back to the start, I feel bad about not writing anything since last Friday. Have I had the time? Probably. Have I had the energy? Maybe. But have I had the enthusiasm? No. In all honesty I haven’t. I don’t know why but I haven’t. I go through spells of wanting to write and then spells of feeling I have to. Blogging should be fun, but recently I’ve looked at it as a chore. In a season where my predictions, so far, have all been wrong, I should be diving into every post with a smile on my face. But occasionally life gets in the way and this gets put back on the ‘To Do List’. 

But because I love football, and I’m constantly looking at Belgium as my getaway, I am seriously looking at going over sooner rather than later. Along with that, an interview will be coming sooner rather than later. But for now, I’m going to slowly ease my way back, with more opinion and hopefully some reaction that will stir up reaction too.

Posted in Pro League in Europe, Transfers, Uncategorized

Random Ramblings

This blog post is a post where, like some I have done before, I spill my thoughts onto a screen via my thumb as I’m having to use my phone. I am @currently in Luxembourg, mainly because flights were cheap, along with accommodation, and I have worked a lot in 2017.

It’s tough for me and whoever may read this because it’s a reality check in some ways. I managed to go to the stadia of the 2 biggest clubs in Luxembourg City. Their capacities aren’t big and in all honesty, they resemble a non league ground in England. How they’d be able to play in UEFA competition is beyond me, and furthermore, how did Glasgow Rangers get knocked out by Niedercorn (if that’s correct).

I then think about the Pro League. A league where people in England scoff at the players, league and clubs. Where the other night on what is the biggest sports radio station in the world, they said they’d keep us abreast of all goals as they go in across Europe. Belgium apparently isn’t in Europe because Oostende vs Antwerp wasn’t mentioned at all. As I’ve said many times, I find Belgian football entertaining, fascinating, and with most clubs, approachable in that you can contact the clubs and ‘converse’ I guess.

But every club have their problems and expectations. The club I actually support is in total disarray on and off the pitch. The players want to leave, the manager won’t and the fans basically want everyone to go! If you know who I’m on about you will say that I don’t know how lucky I am. But because if all this I have become disillusioned. The negativity is beginning to wear me down and I no longer have the affinity with my club anymore.

I have Belgian Football as my release. I see that Standard Liege are almost capitulating in some ways. I see a big name in Jordi Clasie has come across from Southampton. But as much as I try to keep up to date, I tend to give my opinion of the facts or rumours that I’ve read, whether it’s immediate or later. I have played and loved football since I was 4 years old and 23 years later, that relationship is hanging by a thread because of who I support and the money thrown about. 

In England, money from fans no longer pay wages. When you see £30-£40-£50 million + deals made between July and September and then in January, you are no longer surprised. When you see insurmountable wages thrown about and players say THAT’S NOT ENOUGH! You almost need to question the parents. 

I don’t know. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the Lokeren press officer said don’t compare us to England. But we invented football and have over 100 professional football clubs. To not make a comparison with what I know…Well…I have nothing to go by then. When I saw 2 managers sacked after 2 matches in Belgium I actually got worried. It gave me something to write, but I was hoping Belgium was better than that.

It is. It gives you Mouscron, Kortrijk, Antwerp and Sint Truiden looking down at Oostende, Anderlecht, Gent and Standard Liege and it shows that things can be different if team ethic and hard work comes into play. I hope this continues, at least til Christmas because it gives clubs hope that togetherness is more important than individualism. Especially in football…

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.

Courtesy of Getty Images

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.

Courtesy of Getty Images

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. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

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. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

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.

Courtesy of Getty Images

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.

Courtesy of Getty Images

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!

Courtesy of Getty Images

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. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

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. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

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!