KV Mechelen v Zulte Waregem
On Saturday, Zulte Waregem travel to the AFAS Stadium with their backs against the wall again. Despite wins at Kortrijk and Anderlecht in recent weeks, Essevee did not move from the last place. Defeats at Ostend and against Standard made them face the facts: it will be a fight until the last matchday. If they win this match, they will trail the Malines by 3 points.
Last match day Zulte-Waregem surprisingly dominated for 75 minutes against in-form team Standard. Several times they came 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Bodart, but the strikers scuffed several opportunities. To make matters worse, they missed a penalty. In the final 15 minutes Standard took over and the game ended 0-3.
Mechelen lost to leaders Genk last match day. That is no disgrace, but the goals came rather easily. Coach Defour should not be blamed for anything. It would be ridiculous to expect him to have a defensive system on point after only two games. On the attack, he does let Mechelen play more expressively than previous coach Buijs, with more high-risk passes and runs. They have since scored every week.
A consequence of this new style of play is that Zulte-Waregem will get more ball possession than they are used to, but they must also not lose sight of Mechelen’s highly effective midfielders for a second. They did that superbly for 75 minutes against Standard, which has a similar attacking plan. However, football games demand 90 minutes of effort. Given Waregem’s struggles, we also now expect that they will not stay secure at the back for a whole match. However, we don’t see them squandering so many chances again, so both teams scoring is our bet.
Antwerp v RSC Anderlecht
Antwerp’s fast start in the Pro League has collapsed after defeats to Standard, Genk and Charleroi. Between those defeats they did win against Ostend, but the Antwerp have lost their winning spark.
Coach Van Bommel is slowly getting déjà vu. At his two previous clubs, PSV and Wolsburg, the same story happened. He got off to a fantastic start at both clubs, only to follow on with defeats that eventually led to his dismissal twice. We wonder if he has learned from this and can break this pattern. Nainggolan’s suspension won’t make this fixture easier and he will remain with the reserves for the time being.
Anderlecht is still in a serious crisis period. However, qualification for the next round of the Conference League last Thursday was a small boost. This did take a lot of effort against Silkeborg, a mediocre opponent. Anderlecht got ahead in the first half and forced a red card, but in the second half they were dominated by Silkeborg and needed an excellent performance from goalkeeper Van Crombrugge to secure the win.
Interim coach Veldman thus booked his second (difficult) win, after winning at home against Eupen in the league last matchday. At the back, they also gave away big chances against them. Veldman is sticking with some of the young players he trained with the U21, but physically and tactically most of them fall short for now. Anderlecht is last in the league in terms of high-intensity sprints. This explains why they often play poorly in the second half and such a problem cannot be solved in a few weeks. We therefore expect Antwerp to punish Anderlecht’s usual mistakes at the back. There is still quality up front for Antwerp, with Frey, Janssen and the returning Baliskwisha.
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