Sporting Charleroi v Mechelen
The Europe play-offs in the Pro League are now effectively over, with neither Charleroi nor Mechelen able to catch second-placed Genk. Thanks to Gent’s already confirmed Europa League place which they earned by winning the Belgian Cup, the chance to play in Europe now depends on Genk overhauling the current leaders, otherwise Antwerp will qualify automatically.
With nothing left to play for, and nothing to lose this should hopefully be an exciting game, between two fairly evenly matched sides. Though Charleroi have struggled against sides also in the play-offs this season, they do still regularly get on the scoresheet themselves, scoring in 7 of 10 games against the other sides in these Europe play-offs. They have also seen both sides score in all of their last 3 games in this play-off group.
Mechelen can boast an even better record, having scored in 8 of their 10 games against the other sides in this play-off group. Both of the games in which they failed to score were away games at Gent, who are by far the best side in this round robin.
The two sides have found the net on 60 and 61 occasions this Pro League season, whilst conceding an enormous 55 and 68 goals each, Mechelen having a -7 goal difference despite finishing the season in 7th place. Neither side is especially defensively sound, but they do have plenty of weapons in attack, and hopefully with nothing to play for they will play out an end-to-end tie with plenty of chances.
Both sides have averaged 1.48xG during these play-offs so far, while their defensive shortcomings are highlighted by xGA figures of 2.06 for Charleroi and 1.57 for Mechelen. Charleroi conceded 27 shots and 3 goals against Genk last time out, in a crucial game they could not afford to lose. Goals look to be almost certain here.
Charleroi are near guaranteed to concede, but they will want to put on a show for their fans on the last game of the season, and this should lead to lots of attacking football with little regard for the defence. The end result does not matter for either side, but could determine who finishes the season higher, so there are some minor bragging rights up for grabs.
It is always difficult to know for sure with games like this where the teams have nothing to motivate them, but I do think goals look very likely here, and would be surprised to see either of these sides being able to keep a very rare clean sheet.
Genk v Gent
The second fixture in this Europe play-off sees the two sides who still remain hopeful of European football next season. Genk now must chase down Gent’s 4 point lead, as the play-off for a spot in the Conference League next season will only take place if Gent do not finish in first place.
Genk are unbeaten so far, having won 3 and drawn 1 of their 4 play-off games this season. Their play-off pedigree from last season that almost saw them snatch the league title from Club Brugge has carried over to 2021-22, and the Limburg based side still have a chance of winning this group, but only if they win today.
Gent may have nothing to play for but they have pulled off three wins in a row, and put together some solid displays despite a changed team. Genk will be rightly frustrated having worked so hard to put themselves in a position to win the group, but they can only blame themselves after an inconsistent regular season.
Genk have conceded a lot of goals in this play-off group so far, with all of their last 3 games seeing 2 goals for the opposition. This is against two sides in Mechelen and Charleroi who are significantly weaker than today’s opponents, who were easily good enough to have finished in the top-4, and only just missed out.
They will be desperate to hold Gent to no goals as they did in the reverse fixture, but the side from East Flanders have been much improved from that first game and it will be extremely impressive for the home side to force the drawing of another blank here today.
Genk are averaging 2.5 goals per game in these play-offs, and putting up 2.56xG on average, including an enormous 4.1xG last time out against Charleroi. They will surely score today, and with nothing to lose and everything to gain with a win, they will be going all out for more. Gent meanwhile have nothing to lose either, and this should lead to them allowing themselves to be drawn out of their defensive structure and into a more end-to-end game, as has happened throughout these play-offs to this point.
The away side have been fortunate so far, conceding just under 2xGA (1.84) per 90 in the post-season, yet have not conceded more than once in any of their 4 games. This good fortune cannot keep going for much longer, and it will be under more pressure here today than any other game so far.
The strange balance of this game, with one side desperate to win at all costs to keep their European dream alive, and the other with absolutely nothing to play for, should make for a fascinating game. Genk have been on fire going forwards, but still suspect defensively, and I am convinced they will concede at least once. Should they concede, they will find themselves needing at least 2 goals to keep their season alive, will have to push players forward to try and find those goals, and will leave spaces on the counter for Gent.
Again it is hard to predict how this game will turn out because of the unique situation, but goals do seem very likely, with both sides keeping only one clean sheet in their 4 play-off games so far. Genk have scored in all 4 games, whilst Gent have scored in 3 of 4, and considering this selection would have landed in 5 of the 7 games these two sides have contested during this play-off campaign, odds of 1.73 represent excellent value.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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