Feature | Preview of this weekends South-West Flanders derby, a key game for both sides

Games between Zulte Waregem and KV Kortrijk are always hotly contested. The fans are very clear in their desire that, of all the games during the season, winning this one is of high importance. This season, with the struggle both sides are having, the potential advantage of winning this game is even bigger than bragging rights. Both sides are right in the relegation struggle, with Zulte Waregem especially beginning to be cut adrift at the bottom of the league.

The previous meeting between the sides was complete and utter humiliation for Zulte Waregem. Kortrijk, at home, won 5-0 thanks to two goals apiece from Trent Sainsbury and Faiz Selemani, with Mohamed Badamosi grabbing one as well. Zulte Waregem’s defence appears to have hardly improved from last season, given that this year they are already top of the goals conceded table with 25. Kortrijk, on the other hand, have hardly been a defensive force, having conceded 18. This comes despite the heroics of young Serbian goalkeeper Marko Ilic.

Goals may well be the order of the day one would presume, given the poor defensive record of both sides. However, neither side has shown much efficiency going forward. Both have scored just nine goals in 11 matches, despite the attacking talents of Faiz Selemani for Kortrijk and experienced goal scorer Jelle Vossen at Zulte Waregem. Both will be key players this weekend.

However, Zulte Waregem may have an answer to their scoring woes thanks to the return of one of last years key players. Zinho Gano and Mbaye Leye had a fall out over the summer, with the manager saying Gano would not play for him again. Gano has since apologised and Leye has welcomed him back into the fold. Vossen and Gano combined for 30 goals last season, one of the best strike partnerships in the league.

For Kortrijk, they were one of the first sides to change manager. Former Charleroi manager Karim Belhocine was sacked at the end of August following a string of poor performances, culminating in a 1-0 home defeat to Standard Liege. Kortrijk’s hierarchy opted to bring in Adnan Custovic, the former KV Oostende and Waasland-Beveren (now SK Beveren) manager who had a reasonably poor managerial record. Custovic has had mixed results since coming in, winning two games, one being the surprise 2-1 win over then unbeaten Antwerp. However, his side were also beaten 4-1 in back to back games against Mechelen and Anderlecht.

Looming over this derby, which adds even greater pressure beyond bragging rights, is that this year three sides will be relegated from the Pro League. Since COVID-19, the league was expanded to 18 teams, something that the league authorities have been looking to change. Zulte Waregem will be hoping that a win on Saturday will be the start of their climb away from the bottom of the pile, while Kortrijk will be looking to heap more misery on their rivals while they themselves also attempt to create breathing space.

Ben Jackson – GBeNeFN

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