Anderlecht v Royal Antwerp
Our first Pro League game for Sunday is a cracker, between two of Belgium’s top clubs, both historically and currently. Antwerp are third in the league with 57 points, whilst Anderlecht sit one point further back in fourth. With both sides nervously looking over their shoulder at Gent (52 points), they will both be aware that dropped points will open the door to the side in fifth-place, especially as they will be making the trip to bottom club Beerschot later on Sunday evening. A win for either side would put them in the driving seat and should ensure they finish in the top-4.
Goals look a good bet in this game, with Anderlecht being second-highest scorers in the division, and both sides having good but not great defensive records. For the home side, they have seen goals for both sides in 5 of their 7 games against sides in the top-6, and of the home games against these clubs, all 3 have also seen BTTS land.
Their record over the course of the season is 10 out of 15 home games in which both sides have found the net, putting them joint-second in the Pro League. On average their home games see 3.53 goals per 90, of which the hosts score at a rate of over 2 per game. Despite their seeming dominance going forward, they often struggle to keep clean sheets, managing just four all season.
Antwerp meanwhile are similarly good bets for BTTS, especially in top-of-the-table clashes like this fixture. In 5 of their 6 games on the road against sides in the play-offs (top-8), both sides have scored. They sit just behind Anderlecht’s record with 9 of their 15 away ties seeing a BTTS selection land.
The Reds look a dead cert for at least a goal in this game, having scored in 100% of their 15 away Pro League matches this season, something which only Cercle Brugge can match. In both home and away games, they have only failed to score once in 14 games against sides in the top half.
Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht side have proven themselves to be more than a match going forwards for any side in the country, and with Antwerp’s ability to frustrate the opposition, this will be the key to this selection landing. Antwerp have scored in 15 of 15 away games, and against what can be a fragile defence, should keep that streak going. If Anderlecht can find a way through, as they so often do, this selection should comfortably land, especially with defeat potentially posing a real threat to both sides’ hopes of appearing in the championship play-off.
Genk v Sint-Truiden
Our second game on Sunday sees the side currently occupying the last play-off spot, Genk, hosting Sint-Truiden, who are one of two sides who may think they could just about sneak into the play-offs themselves. Sitting six points behind Genk, Sint-Truiden know this game is a must-win if they are to have any hope of claiming a play-off spot, but Genk will be confident of securing the points and consolidating their position.
In their 7 home games against sides in the bottom-half, Genk have won 6 and lost just once, a madcap 4-3 loss to Oostende way back in July. Of those 6 wins, they have won 5 of them to nil. They are currently unbeaten in 7 home games also, with 5 wins in a row, and just a single draw (a creditable 1-1 against third-placed Antwerp).
Genk have scored 2 or more goals in 10 of their 15 Pro League games at the Luminus Arena. Of those 5 games in which they did not score twice, they scored once in four of them, and four of the five matches were against opponents currently in the top-5.
They have managed to keep 6 clean sheets at home, including an impressive string of 3 in their previous 5 games. Although their current cushion to the sides below will feel relatively comfortable, one defeat and wins for the sides below could invite them back into the race, and Bernd Storck will be busy ensuring that they do not get complacent and allow their excellent home form to drop off.
Sint-Truiden have a mixed record against sides above them in the table, winning 5, drawing 4 and losing 8 of their 17 games against top-half opposition. Their away games tend to be low-scoring, no matter the opposition, with Bernd Hollerbach often attempting to set up his team to frustrate the opposition and come away with a draw or even a win if they can nick a goal. This is especially evident in games against top-half opponents, where they have not scored more than once in 8 attempts this season.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Genk are one of the highest-scoring sides in the Pro League, and setting up to frustrate a side which creates 2.04xG per home game is simply asking for trouble. Genk’s away form has been poor all season, but they still managed to take a 2-1 victory and the 3 points on the short trip north from Sint-Truiden to Genk earlier this season.
Genk to win seems to be more likely than not. De Kanaries are certainly no pushovers, and they will want bragging rights over their near neighbours, but they have shown little to suggest they will be able to take anything from this game, especially when anything other than a win for the home side could mean they miss out on the chance at European football provided by the play-offs.
Beerschot v Gent
The teatime Pro League kick off is the first game for Beerschot since it was confirmed that they will, at a minimum, face a relegation play-off. However, with a seven point gap between themselves and Seraing who currently occupy that play-off position, automatic relegation seems all but certain. Gent meanwhile have come into form just at the right time, and find themselves hot on the heels of the two sides in our lunchtime game in Brussels. A win for the visitors here will see them one point behind one of the two sides above them depending on the result of that fixture.
The hosts have played 13 games against sides in the play-off positions this season, and have won just the one, drawn another and lost all of the remaining 11. They have failed to score in 9 of their 15 home games, and despite some encouraging performances in recent weeks, have been unable to capitalise, letting leads slip in 3 of their last 7 games.
In front of their own fans they have been poor this season, taking points off a side not also in the bottom-half just once, with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Genk earlier in the season. Their recent form does little to suggest a repeat of that is likely here however, with De Ratten having lost four games in a row, and 6 of their previous 8 matches.
Meanwhile, the visitors from Ghent have a solid unbeaten record against the sides in the bottom-4, having won 5 and drawn 2 of their 7 games so far. They come into this game having won three in a row on the road, and five in a row home and away, scoring 10 goals and conceding just twice, in a run kick-started by an impressive 2-1 win against Club Brugge.
Gent will surely win this tie, and Beerschot fans, should their city rivals Antwerp have lost to Anderlecht earlier in the day may not be that upset with that, knowing both that they are all but relegated and that the 3 points they have surrendered may be the points today’s opponents require to overhaul Antwerp for the final championship play-off spot.
Standard Liege v Seraing
The final game of Sunday is a game that ultimately doesn’t mean an awful lot for either of the sides involved. Seraing may technically be able to climb out of the relegation play-off spot, but they are 6 points behind 16th, with 12 points to play for, and require a 14 goal swing to overhaul Zulte Waregem on goal difference. They are also 7 points clear of Beerschot, and are essentially just waiting for that play-off to decide their fate. Liege meanwhile are in no mans land, 10 points clear of relegation, and 12 points off the play-offs.
Neither side will be overly aggressive in chasing a result here, but Seraing do look seriously demoralised, and Standard will see them as there for the taking, as will their fans who have seen just three home wins all season, and will be hoping for one here, with their other remaining home game against Union St-Gilloise unlikely to oblige them.
All but one of Standard’s 8 wins this season have come against sides in the bottom-6. They have an impressive record against the sides they share the bottom third of the Pro League table with, playing 9 games, and winning 7, losing just twice. These games tend to be low-scoring affairs, with 7 of the 9 finishing 1-0, but they have proven themselves to be effective at grinding out these results in the games that matter most to them.
Seraing meanwhile have looked a side in trouble for some time now. Finishing in the bottom-2 has looked likely for the majority of the season, but their awful form in the second half of the season has confirmed their fate. They have now lost 12 of their last 14 Pro League games, during which they were able to claim points only against Beerschot in 18th and Eupen in 15th.
They have been pretty terrible no matter where they have played, but away games have been a particular struggle for Les Metallos, with 13 losses in 15 games. They have failed to even score in half of these games, drawing blanks in 8 away matches this term. Their last away game in which they avoided defeat was now nearly 5 months ago, a 3-1 victory away at OH Leuven on November 20th.
Having scored just three goals in 7 games away from the Stade du Pairay, and conceding a hefty 17 goals in these same 7 games, Standard must be licking their lips at the prospect of facing this Seraing side. No side has scored fewer away goals this season, and they have managed a dismal 6 points from 45 available points on the road. Even with nothing to play for, failure to win for Liege would be a real embarrassment considering just how poor their opposition has been this year.
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