By the editor
Mless than two weeks after the end of the Euro and while the Olympic Games will officially begin a few hours later, the Belgian football championship will already be kicking off on Friday at 8:45 p.m. The unofficial kick-off of the new season was given last Sunday, with the Super Cup, won 3-2 by Club Brugge, defending champion, over Genk, winner of the Cup and runner-up of the Brugeois in the league. These two clubs are likely to play the leading roles again this year.
Bruges present themselves with a workforce practically unchanged from last season, but will have to start their season without Hans Vanaken, who played in the Euros, and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, injured. In the Supercup, Philippe Clement’s troops showed that they had lost none of their efficiency, with Clinton Mata and Noa Lang in particular already in high spirits. The Bruges coach took the opportunity to launch several young players, such as goalkeeper Senne Lammens (19) and midfielder Noah Mbamba (16).
Genk was more active in the transfer window, with the arrivals of Mike Trésor Ndayashimiye, Mujaid Sadick, Simen Jukleröd and Carel Eiting. Unless the transfer window changes the situation, the Limburgers will always rely on the formidable attacking trio Junya Ito-Paul Onuachu-Théo Bongonda.
The struggle for Europe
In the second line, we find the two other clubs having participated in the Champions playoffs, Anderlecht and Antwerp. Vincent Kompany has certainly lost Albert Sambi Lokonga, but he has seen the Golden Boot in title land in Neerpede, Lior Refaelov, a defender who has passed through Serie A and the Premier League like Wesley Hoedt (ex-Antwerp) and the unpredictable Benito Raman, as well as a young Spaniard, Sergio Gomez. Fourth place last season represents a good base and gives confidence to the people of Brussels.
Third last year, Antwerp is the only club in the last playoffs to have changed coaches. The new strong man of Bosuil is called Brian Priske. The ‘Great Old’ managed to attract Michel-Angel Balikwisha and bring Birger Verstraete and Björn Engels back to Belgium. The attack will have to be rebuilt, after the departures of Refaelov and Dieumerci Mbokani. Author of 12 goals last season at Waasland-Beveren, the Swiss Michael Frey will be one of the men responsible for compensating for these departures.
Mbaye Leye’s Standard simply haven’t registered a transfer yet, as they have lost Balikwisha and Zinho Vanheusden. In financial difficulties, Standard must more than ever rely on its academy to thrill Sclessin.
The Zebras at the revival
Charleroi has been more active, with the arrival of goalkeeper Hervé Koffi, Stefan Knezevic from Stelios Andreou and Adem Zorgane, who has yet to join Belgium. The Zebras, who remain on a difficult season, are betting on youth, both on the field and on the bench, where Edward Still, 30, will have his first experience as head coach.
La Gantoise and Ostende, revelation of last season, will try to play the spoilsports in the race for the playoffs.
Among the attractions of the season are undoubtedly the returns of the derbies of Brussels and Liège thanks to the two promoted, Union Saint-Gilloise and Seraing.
Inevitably, the promoted think above all of remaining among the elite. But by keeping Felice Mazzu on the bench and adding Felipe Avenatti to a Dante Vanzeir-Denis Undav attacking duo that have rattled the 1B Pro League nets 36 times, Union show they don’t plan to perform a brief stint in the Jupiler Pro League.
Seraing, little Thumb
Seraing, for his part, changed coach, Jordi Condom succeeding Emilio Ferrera, and lost his striker Georges Mikautadze. The two teams will be able to draw inspiration from the example of Oud-Heverlee Louvain and Beerschot, authors of an excellent season as promoted, the two clubs even remaining a good part of the season at the top of the table.
The format of the championship remains the same as last year: a regular season of 34 days at the end of which the first four compete in the Champions playoffs for the title, the clubs classified from fifth to eighth place play to try to win the last European ticket, the last is relegated to 1B Pro League and the penultimate plays a play-off against the second in 1B.