The Belgian Pro League reached the halfway point of the regular season last time out After 15 games, some sides will certainly be disappointed with their current situation and now having to come to terms with the prospect of a relegation battle, or a fight to make the top six.
Westerlo v Anderlecht
Friday night see’s Westerlo welcome a resurgent Anderlecht to Het Kuipje. The hosts are second bottom with just two wins from their opening 15 games. After a mid table finish last season, they are certainly one side who are having to come to terms with a different type of campaign this time out. Their dramatic defeat to Charleroi last time out will have certainly had a hit on their confidence. They will hope that 19-year-old Lucas Stassin will be in inspired form against his former side.
For Anderlecht, they left it late to beat RWDM last time out and will be once again without Thorgan Hazard. They will hope that, even without the former Dortmund man, they can continue their five game unbeaten run. The talented 22-year-old Yari Verschaeren is back in contention after a lengthy time on the sidelines with injury. His return to the side and top form could really help boost their title challenge.
RWDM v Charleroi
RWDM were on the wrong side of a late winner from Anderlecht last weekend. Their season is on the edge at the moment, with the side sitting three points above the bottom four. Their opponents sit one place below them and the Brussels side should see this as a fantastic chance to begin to build the gap again. They will once again look to Makhtar Gueye to score the goals, with the striker having grabbed six already.
Charleroi left it late to beat Westerlo, with youngster Youssuf Sylle being the hero. Felice Mazzu has managed to release the pressure whenever the side come under pressure, but they are another side that will not be happy with being fifth from bottom. Inconsistency and an inability to build a positive string of results is the reason the Zebras find themselves where they are. Grabbing back to back wins would go a long way to improving their situation and relieving some pressure.
Eupen v Kortrijk
Eupen host basement dwellers Kortrijk in a relegation six pointer. The Pandas have only won one of their previous five matches, which came five games ago against Charleroi. Goals have been a struggle, with Isaac Nuhu their top scorer having provided just four. Gary Magnee is still carrying the load in terms of assists with three to go alongside his two goals. Defeat to Kortrijk would reduce the gap between the sides to just two points.
Glen De Boeck bemoaned the sides lack of attacking quality after their 3-0 defeat to Mechelen last time out. Both sides have the equal worst defence with 32 conceded in 15 games so far this season. Kortrijk’s top scorer is Cardiff loanee Isaak Davies with three, and Kortrijk will be desperate for him to add to this against Eupen. Defeat would see them really looking down the barrel of relegation, even after just 16 games.
Antwerp v OH Leuven
Antwerp will be hoping to put another disappointing European night behind them when they host relegation threatened OH Leuven. The hosts could only manage a 1-1 draw with Sint-Truiden, despite having beaten Standard Liege 6-0 the previous matchday. Antwerp fans will expect a performance as the side currently sits over 10 points back from league leaders Union St Gilloise. If they have any ambitions of defending their title, they cannot afford to drop points at home against the likes of OH Leuven.
The away side have lost four league games on the bounce. While three of those defeats came against better sides in the league, they also fell 2-0 to Westerlo. Goalscoring is a huge problem for OHL, with defender Hamza Mendyl leading the way with three goals, two of which came in one game. Former Watford head coach Oscar Garcia has plenty of work to do if he wants to turn OHL’s season around. Not many will give them a chance away to Antwerp.
Genk v Gent
Like Antwerp, Genk also suffered a poor week in Europe as they lost to Fiorentina. The side are now facing an uphill task to qualify from their Conference League group. Domestically, they could also do with clawing back some ground in the title race. They have only managed one win in their previous five matches in all competitions. Defender Daniel Munoz leads the side with five goals, Beating Gent would reduce the gap between the sides to three points and help build some confidence for the second half of the season.
Gent have drawn their last two matches against the top two, so a win over Genk will be seen as important to ensure that the gap starts to come down. They will be without Paul Nardi for the foreseeable future after his horror injury during their victory of Zorya in Europe. Davy Roef is a reliable back-up with plenty of Pro League experience. Don’t expect a goal fest between these two sides in what may be a cagey affair.
KV Mechelen v Sint-Truiden
KV Mechelen put in a strong performance to beat Kortrijk 3-0 last time and will be looking to string some consistent performances together. They have now lost just one of their previous five games and could really build up some points between themselves and the bottom four at the weekend. Rob Schoofs was back to his best against Kortrijk with a goal and an assist, while Kerim Mrabti also got back amongst the goals. KV Mechelen fans will be hoping that the entertaining brand of football they are used to is finally back.
Sint-Truiden are also enjoying an unbeaten run at the moment, having not lost in their previous five outings. They have gathered three draws in a row in the Pro League, so will be hoping to finally convert one of these into a win against Mechelen. Aboubakary Koita remains the star with 10 goals, and Canaries fans will be hoping that someone else can help him share the load in the second half of the season. Koita may well be off to AFCON in January, so Sint-Truiden need to show that they can win without him at some point.
Club Brugge v Standard Liege
Club Brugge dismantled Turkish side Beşiktaş on Thursday and fans of the blue and black half of Brugge will be hoping that the side have finally rediscovered their scoring touch. They should have scored plenty against OH Leuven but only managed one. It was enough for three points, but it didn’t dispel the pressure on the side. They are currently on the outside looking into the top six, with Standard three points behind them doing the same. Ronny Deila could certainly do with a win over his former side.
Standard Liege grabbed an important win over Genk last time out to move on from their 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Antwerp. If they have real ambitions of making the top six, picking up points against the likes of Club Brugge away from home will be crucial. Since the end of the transfer window they have been one of the best sides in the Pro League, with former Wolves midfielder Hayao Kawabe being the standout player so far.
Union St Gilloise v Cercle Brugge
Union St Gilloise continue to lead the way in the Pro League this season. The side have not lost a league game since the 16th of September at home to Genk and will hope to keep up their unbeaten run at home to Cercle Brugge. Union have plenty of goals up front, with three strikers all in form. Cameron Puertas is feeding them all, with nine assists already in the league this season. The side is unbeaten in their previous games against Cercle Brugge.
Cercle Brugge are the surprise package this season, finding themselves in the top six at the expense of the likes of Standard Liege and Club Brugge. Despite injuries, they have been able to maintain their performances. Kevin Denkey is leading the line with 10 goals, while the performances of Monaco loanee Félix Lemaréchal have also caught the eye. Rumours are that head coach Miron Muslic is set to sign a new contract at the club, despite interest from elsewhere in Europe.