OH Leuven v Union St-Gilloise
The first of the weekend’s Pro League games sees league leaders Union make the trip from Brussels to Leuven. Leuven have very little to play for, but the approaching play-offs mean all four remaining regular season fixtures are crucial for Union. With points about to be halved, their seven point lead could soon be three or four, and Club Brugge in second are in top form right now.
Leuven have been struggling slightly over the last few weeks, which is not unexpected for a team 8 points and 4 places off the play-offs and 14 points clear of the drop. They have lost to Sint-Truiden and Eupen, the loss to Eupen in particular suggesting a real drop off in form, as they had won just one game since November coming into that game.
They concede just under 1.77xGA during an average game, so we should assume the team topping the table with more goals scored than any other should be able to generate that and more. They also tend to struggle against the top teams in the league, with their home record against the top-6 currently reading at 4 games played, with 2 draws and 2 defeats.
Union meanwhile are better away from home than they are in front of their own fans, winning 10 and drawing 2 of their last 9 away games. Both times they dropped points in this run it came against sides currently in the play-off (top-8) positions. Against sides in the bottom half, when playing away from home they retain a 100% record, winning all seven of these fixtures.
Union’s last away defeat in the Pro League came way back on August 22nd, before their march to the top of the table had really gotten underway. Their last six away games have seen them keep six clean sheets, the only exception being a 3-2 win away at Kortrijk, a scoreline which didn’t really reflect the game.
Les Apaches may not have been at the top of their game in recent weeks, but up against a side with nothing to play for, they really should win this game. They have been the best side in the division by a distance this season, and with Deniz Undav back amongst the goals with a beauty last time out, they will be extremely confident of taking three points back to the capital.
KV Mechelen v Sporting Charleroi
The first Saturday tie of this Pro League gameweek sees two sides in the play-off positions facing off against each other. Seventh-placed Mechelen are level on points with their opponents, with the two sides separated by goal difference. Neither side is in great form, and with their 7 point cushion to ninth looking very comfortable at this late stage of the season, whichever side wins will all but confirm their play-off spot.
There should be plenty of goals in this one, with Mechelen seeing over 2.5 goals land in all of their last 3 home games. Overall, over 2.5 has come in for 4 of their previous 5 games, the other finishing just 1 goal short at 1-1. Against fellow top-8 sides, they have played 12 games, with over 2.5 goals landing in just over half of these (7). When restricted to home games only this ratio increases slightly to a total of 4 of 6 games with three or more goals.
They are joint-top in the division for games finishing with over 2.5 goals at home, with 10 of 15 Pro League matches at the AFAS Stadion this season reaching that mark. Over the course of these 15 matches, there have been 51 goals scored, at a rate of 3.4 per 90 minutes.
Charleroi are even more likely to be involved in high-scoring games, especially while on the road. In away matches against other sides in the top-8, 4 of 5 have seen over 2.5 goals, with the only exception finishing 2-0. Across 15 matches away from home, both sides have found the net in 8, and they have only drawn 3 of 15, so we can expect there to be goals in the majority of games involving Les Zebres.
Of their 15 away games, over 2.5 has landed in 12, the highest in the Pro League by some distance. With 3.53 goals scored per game on average, it is not hard to see why, with Charleroi both scoring and conceding at a rate of more than 1.5 goals per game.
With a win seeming likely to confirm a play-off spot, and neither side being in particular danger of dropping out of the play-off positions, even with a defeat here, we should expect both sides to be happy to go for it, and to see plenty of goals as a result.
Cercle Brugge v Kortrijk
The next Saturday game should be the complete opposite of the game that precedes it, with neither side being especially proficient considering the high-scoring nature of the Pro League. Between the two sides, they average 2.47 goals per game, 0.5 below the league average.
Cercle Brugge have been boosted by the return of Thibo Somers, who was instrumental in their winning run earlier in the season, going from winning 8 in 9 to just 2 in their next 5 games. However, this is still unlikely to be a high-scoring affair, with their 2.47 goals per game at home being the third-lowest in the division.
Their 1.2xGA per game is fourth-worst in the Pro League, whilst their 1.27 goals scored per 90 demonstrates the tight nature of most Cercle games at the Jan Breydel Stadion. In games against those around them in the table (9th-13th), they have seen less than 3 goals in 5 of the 7 matches they have played.
Kortrijk meanwhile have seen an incredibly low 37 goals in 15 games, at an average rate of 2.47 per 90. No side has seen more games finish with under three goals than Der Kegels, with 18 of 30 (60%) having under 2.5 goals land. Their 15 away games have seen more than 3 goals on just 5 occasions, again the lowest in the division.
They produce 1.15xG per game (fourth-worst in the league), which when paired up against the low 1.2xGA conceded by their opponents, suggests they may be fortunate to find the net in this game and would have next to no prospects of scoring more than once.
Goals simply do not look likely in this game. Kortrijk are not playing particularly well, while Cercle have seen some real stop-start form over the last few weeks. Even if one team is off the pace, the other is unlikely to be able to go for the kill and thrash the other. I would expect a tight affair with little to separate the two, and for under 2.5 goals to come in quite comfortably.
Zulte Waregem v Eupen
The other teatime Pro League game should provide a much more enjoyable watch. Although both sides are sitting one and two places above the relegation play-off spot, they are all but safe, with 17th-placed Seraing on a rotten run of form, and six and eight points behind these two sides with 12 points to play for.
Waregem have been an entertaining watch throughout this season, although they have struggled to find the net with anything like the regularity they were before the winter break in recent months. They have still only failed to score on 3 occasions at home all season long, and two of these games were against the current top-2. Across 15 games at the Regenboogstadion, there has been 51 goals, the fourth-highest total in the division
Both sides have scored in 3 of the Essevee’s last 5 home games, and the hosts have themselves scored in 4 of these 5. Their record of 10 of 15 home games in which BTTS has landed is amongst the highest in the division, whilst their 67% record across all 30 games played is the second-highest.
Eupen meanwhile were top of the table after 10 games, but collapsed over the next 20, and just last weekend won what was only their second game since November. I was perhaps a little harsh on new Eupen head coach Michael Valkanis last week, and they have definitely improved somewhat since Stefan Kramer was replaced, but how long this will last is anyone’s guess. They did win 3-1 last time out against Leuven, thanks to some clinical finishing, but there is a long way to go before they are back to their best.
BTTS has landed in 3 of their last 5 matches, and in 2 of 3 games under the new manager. Across the season they sit solidly mid-table They have only managed to keep clean sheets in 4 of their 30 games all season long, with only rock-bottom Beerschot managing to notch up less.
Having seemingly arrested their terrible run over the last 2 games, Eupen will be confident of getting some more points on the board here, against one of the division’s worst defences. Waregem have enough about them going forward to get on the scoresheet themselves though, and I would expect a competitive game with plenty of clear-cut chances for both sides. BTTS looks very likely and should almost definitely land.
Oostende v Club Brugge
The final Saturday game in the Pro League seems as though it could be a foregone conclusion. Oostende have not beaten Club Brugge in any of their previous 10 attempts, with the side from Bruges winning 9 of these games. The reverse fixture was 3-0, and there is very little to suggest anything will change in this tie.
Oostende are 9 points clear of 17th-placed Seraing, making them all but safe for another season, and it is mathematically impossible for them to reach the play-offs. With little to play for, there is unlikely to be much appetite to fight for 3 points against an in-from Brugge side desperate to rein in league leaders Union.
Their record against sides in the top-4 is poor, with the Ostend side winless in six attempts, losing 5 and drawing the other. They have won just once in their last six games, and the same applies when looking at just their home games, the single win being a narrow 1-0 versus Standard Liege. They have been comfortably beaten 3-0 by Anderlecht and Mechelen in recent weeks, and Brugge will expect to do the same here.
The reigning champions will have been encouraged by some slip-ups from Union in recent weeks, and know that their chances hinge on reducing the gap ahead of the play-offs as much as possible. They have now won 4 in a row, conceding just twice and scoring 14 times, at a rate of 3.5 goals per game.
They have not lost to any side currently in the bottom-half all season, winning 12 and drawing 4 of their 16 games. Away from home they have been even better, winning 6 and drawing just one of 7 games against bottom-half opposition. That draw was a 2-2 against Standard Liege that Brugge really deserved to win.
Brugge cannot afford to drop any points between now and the end of the season, and as champions they know how to go about closing out a season. They will not be careful to avoid complacency but will be quietly confident that they will return to Bruges with 3 more points in the bag. As I said above, Oostende have nothing to play for but pride, and have been soundly beaten by the visitors several times in recent seasons. An away win seems almost certain here.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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