History beckons for Union St Gilloise or Antwerp

Belgium will have a new champion this season. Club Brugge have won the last three titles, but that will not be the case this season. Since the turn of the millennium, Anderlecht (10) and Club Brugge (7) have been the sides winning the most titles. Genk (3), Standard Liege (2) and Gent (1) have occasionally beaten them to the post, but no one else has toppled the current ‘big boys’ of Belgian football.

This year, however, the title will go to a side who has not won it since 1957. Antwerp are in the driving seat at the moment, hoping to end their 66 year wait for a league title. If they can beat Union this weekend, that wait could finally come to an end. This is quite the turnaround for a side that was recently languishing in the second tier of Belgian football between 2005 and 2017. With the financial support of Paul Gheysens, the side made its return. Over the past four seasons they have managed to finish in the top four, but never had quite enough to win the league title. That could change this season, which would give them the double after they beat Mechelen in the cup final last month.

Union, on the other hand, have not won the league title since 1935. During the pre-war period, they were one of the most dominant sides in Belgian football as they won 11 league titles, but none since. Like Antwerp, they have spent time outside of the top flight. It took them longer to return, coming back up in 2020/2021 under Felice Mazzu. With the backing of Brighton’s Tony Bloom, the side have been emulating the success of the Sussex based side, using scouting and intelligent recruitment to avoid over spending on players. They came close to winning the title during their first season back in the Pro League last year, coming up just short in the play-offs to Club Brugge. Yet despite Mazzu departing for city rivals Anderlecht in the summer, under Karel Geraerts Union have arguably looked even better this season. They will be hoping that it won’t be another case of close but no cigar this time around.

During the first meeting in the play-offs in Brussels, Antwerp outclassed Union with a 2-0 win. However, last week they were beaten 2-0 by Club Brugge in Brugge, with Union picking up a 1-1 draw against Genk.

All eyes will be on the Bosuil this weekend as the sides go head to head. Regardless of the result, the winner of the title this year will be a historic moment in Belgian football.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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