Posted in Pro League in Europe

European football after Christmas

This fortnight there have been sixteen matches that have almost gripped a continent. Teams from England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France…you get it (even Austria) have played their part in amazing comebacks and quality goals. My ‘obsession’ with the Pro League have slightly dwindled in recents weeks, mainly because I am against a playoff system. Of course this is my opinion, a preference of what I have always been used to and what I prefer.

Unfortunately however, my mind has been so far away from these playoffs, although I’m obviously keeping myself up to date, I am already looking forward to next season where only relegation has been confirmed, and right now, a title race is well and truly on the cards. It is exciting if you’re a fan. Without mentioning about ten teams, there is much to look forward to still as another week comes and will go quicker than we’d have wanted.

Maybe league football is not on my mind because my club has just let themselves down, even though they broke their transfer record twice in six months with sums of money JPL clubs could only dream about. But actually getting towards my point, and without going back over the same ground I’ve and you’ve covered, I guess I’m just feeling the disappointment (again) of how Belgian football clubs let themselves down in Europe. I don’t expect them to win a trophy. Nobody does. In modern football, money talks, and Belgium are skint compared to the top leagues. But what they do have is that quality if it all works well. Zulte Waregem are the only club who didn’t embarrass themselves this season, along with Oostende, seeing as De Kustboys went out to current semi finalists Marseille in the qualifiers.

Anderlecht had a dreadful start domestically and in Europe, and I still think sacking Weiler before the Celtic game proved costly, although Bayern at home could’ve gone a hell of a lot better too. But there you go…Bayern, the Champions League semi finalists were in their group, along with perennial bottle jobs Paris Saint Germain. But third wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Mismanagement is what it boils down too, as well as not having a proper striker before Christmas.

Gent and Club Brugge haven’t gotten away with it. Disgrace is a word which comes to mind. But then again, if one of these two win the league, they obviously won’t give a fuck. I wouldn’t. But with these two failing to get into proper competition, what could’ve been five teams in Europe ended up with two, and both were out before Christmas. We all know, if you don’t have quality, you most certainly need luck. The draw needs to go your way and having Bayern and PSG, or Lazio and Nice just doesn’t help.

Next season should be different (in my opinion) as you’d think Belgian football could progress. How? I don’t know? It must come down to luck. We know that Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent and Standard Liège will be there you’d think. But who’s the fifth team? Genk? Most likely in my opinion, and that is a great crop of teams. I just want Belgian football to progress domestically, but more on a continental stage. Internationally you’re huge, even with Roberto Mythinez, and I purposely put ‘Myth’ in there. But hopefully spring 2019 will see a Belgian club go beyond their group and into a knockout phase. This is totally irrelevant to what I usually write building up to a matchday weekend, but as I’ve stated, I’m not fussed about the playoffs and European football is on the forefront of a lot of minds, especially mine.

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Posted in Pro League in Europe

Can the JPL benefit?

With it being an international weekend and with fixtures tonight, I was wondering would the Pro League ever benefit from international glory? The great thing about Belgium is that the young players who come up through the league can be exceptional. Without looking at all those in the Premier League who have benefitted from plying their trade in their home country originally, but it can help developing other unknown talent.

With the JPL being the league between the lesser European countries such as Switzerland, Croatia and Poland, it’s obviously just under France, Germany and Italy, it picks from lesser nations and develops them for profit, especially from Scandinavia. But moving away from cherry picking players like Morioka, Kubo and Marin, the country has the upper hand when selecting African talent too.

Now I’ll move away from signings. My point is, if the Red Devils do well in Russia, which is possible, will English television channels begin to give the Pro League the coverage I feel it deserves? Obviously I am entirely biased, but the Eredivisie has been televised for years here, probably due to Bergkamp, Van Nistelrooy and so on. Or unless because of teams such as Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord have had better European pedigree? You can’t say it’s because of the players who come out of The Netherlands now because Belgium are producing them and they are better, seeing as Belgium are among the favourites at tournaments and Holland don’t even qualify.

Another thing that could be likely is the audience. People may unfortunately just not want to watch Belgian football. Is it because of the playoffs? Possibly. Like I’ve said before, La Liga is massive here. Serie A has been televised in England since Paul Gascoigne joined Lazio. The Bundesliga was on, then off, and now huge again. Mainly because of Borussia Dortmund in my opinion. But when I see that there’s the A-League, Chinese football and the MLS? Oh come on!

There’s no telling if the JPL will ever make Sky or BT Sports. I doubt it will happen. But with the way everyone wants to see every player without saying ‘I bought ….. on Football Manager when he was 16’ then Belgian football may deserve its chance as every other league has, and maybe international success could give them the recognition?

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Will this BeNe League Work?

Doing casual research, without putting too much effort in, I’ve looked at the history of this ‘BeNe League’. It has been done in women’s football and the format was that 8 teams play each other in Holland and 8 teams play each other in Belgium. The top four from each then go into their own league and same for the bottom four. Eventually the top 2 went into the Champions League blah blah blah.

Now. I am unsure about this because going by women’s football, are there enough sustainable teams to do this or were there some created especially? The Pro League and Eredivisie has teams already, and their second tier and so on. How does this league decide who gets what in each country and do they discard 8 teams from Belgium and 10 teams from Holland?

I’m so uncertain about this because obviously the big clubs are all for this. This cross border competition is a great idea if I honestly didn’t care, but I care about Belgian football obviously. If teams begin to get forgotten about, what will happen with those clubs? A low standard domestic league with a poor cup competition? It’s the equivalent of Scotland losing Celtic and Rangers. It’ll ruin Scottish football and this could do for the rest of the Pro League and Eredivisie.

On their day, I do think it’s tough to call who’d win right now if Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Charleroi, Gent etc played Feyenoord, Ajax, PSV and whoever else. Zulte Waregem bested Vitesse over 2 matches this season, but like I said, on their day, in a one off. I just feel this could be for the Dutch teams long term because of the 3 clubs I’ve already mentioned. All 3 have six European Cups or Champions Leagues between them, having a greater pull worldwide, and having Anderlecht and etc come to town will be better for them, especially if they embarrass our clubs more often than not.

Going back to the women’s football paragraph, Standard Liège’s women won a title, but the Dutch sides dominated. Once the changes the format to just one league, they ran away with the league every season, with Standard being the only Dutch representatives in the top half consistently. Women’s football in Holland is big. They’ve recently won the European Championships over Denmark. But will they best the men? This won’t happen til 2024 supposedly whilst they arrange the European qualification situation. If I can still be bothered to consistently write rubbish until then, I’m already dreading what could happen to the rest rather than the ‘best’.

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Belgian Teams in Europe

I had a couple of ideas in mind. I’ll save them for when I get my usual writers block. But, before any of that, just a train journey away from one capital to another, Anderlecht visit the Parc de Princes tonight to face not only the best team in France, but one of the best teams in Europe right now.

Last time these 2 met it was a 4-0 demolition job by PSG in Brussels and to be honest, I felt that that result was flattering. Les Mauves had plenty of chances that could’ve at least seen a draw, but when you have a top 3 of Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani all on target, with Di Maria coming on top, you kind of have no chance. 

Since that match, Anderlecht’s form has been okay with a couple of wins, but away from home in Europe, I just can’t see an upset. Add to that the fact they’ve kept up an impressive stat of conceding 3 or more goals per match and haven’t scored a goal, I do worry for Hein Vanhaezebrouck and his players. 

On Thursday we see Zulte Waregem go north rather than south, to Arnhem to face Vitesse. The wooden spoon match with both teams winless, but…wait a minute, Zulte aren’t completely pointless! Drawing 2 weeks ago against the Dutch side, if they somehow win away they honestly have a chance of progression, making the Nice match a bit of a cup final, also depending on if Lazio continue their 100% record.

If Lazio win, Waregem do have a chance, although that does mean winning every other match too. It’s not impossible but it is unlikely. Beyond all of this, and without repeating myself, such a good footballing nation still haven’t won a single match in Europe, qualifying or otherwise. 

The other thing as well is that it can take clubs time to get to grips with European football. What with the travelling, the style of play and all other things that go around that. I will excuse the 2 clubs in Europe this season, not only because I’m kind like that, but also because both groups are incredibly difficult.

My point being, if Anderlecht and Zulte Waregem are having a tough time, just think about the potential clubs for next season. Sint Truiden, Antwerp, Mouscron, Charleroi as the main possibilities. If they’re unconvincing and unconventional now, imagine them on a Thursday night in Eastern Europe, or worse, somewhere else like maybe Anfield, the San Siro or Stade Velodrome?!?

They’ll all have to qualify first and that’s 10 months away. But this week, I simply hope for the best. Good luck
All pictures courtesy of Getty Images

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

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!