Winning at Brugge, few teams could achieve this in the current season. We even did it twice, with both Club and Cercle beating Westel. Spectacular football – which our Kemphans are known for – was not in the cards this time, but we did have the maturity to bring a difficult match to a good end.
Over five days, Kuipje will open its doors twice. Starting on Friday with a match against OH Leuven.Another match against a direct rival for PO 2, although the main goal still remains retention, dixit our coach Jonas De Roeck.
The last time the Leuveners came to the Parel der Kempen was last year, in the eighth finals of the Belgian Cup. It was a spectacular match then with two exclusions and a string of goals, which unfortunately fell on the wrong side twice in the last minute. Since then, our team has undergone a metamorphosis. Of the former starting eleven, only one player was left on the pitch last Saturday, who else than Maxim De Cuyper? Once again voted Man of the Match – for the umpteenth time this season – in his Brugge. Individual standouts are never going to get out of our coach’s mouth though, the team takes precedence. He is right, because the Westerlo of 2023 is a team with a winner’s mentality based on the seven pillars of a successful team: communicative, reliable, flexible, innovative, leadership, organised and, above all, having fun.
The news this week was the transfer of Halil Akbunar. Homesickness for his family drove him to this move, understandable because professional footballers are only human too. We knew him as a good-humoured, finny and never giving up player, who had nevertheless won the hearts of the Westel public in a short space of time. This does mean that our entire right-back from at Brugge will be unavailable. Bryan Reynolds was replaced at half-time with a painful shoulder injury and will also be unavailable for the first few weeks(?). Thus, most likely Edi Jordanov and Tuur Dierckx will get their chance back to start in the starting eleven.
- Both Jonas De Roeck and Mo Messoudi have a past in Leuven.
- Jonas played 15 games in the 2012-2013 season for OHL
- Mo did so one year later, playing 31 games, scoring three goals and providing eight assists
- There are also 2 players in our core of players who have had Den Dreef as their home base: Nick Gillekens (64 games) and Lukas Van Eenoo (15 games)
- This is going to be the tenth edition: we won 3x, drew 2x and lost 4x.
The Leuveners got off to a great start this season. In their first eight games, they won five times. Eleven games later, they did so only twice more, against Zulte Waregem and Seraing. Last weekend they had to swallow another goal in extra time, losing again.
Raphael Holzhauser will no longer be there. The Austrian will play on a rental basis in the German Third Division at 1860 Munich. Wondering if captain Mathieu Maertens has recovered from his injury. He was forced into the side after only half an hour in the game against Kortrijk.
Three players were at the start of each match: goalkeeper Cojocaru and midfielders De Norre and Maertens. Central defenders Pletinckx and Ricca are also certitudes and have featured in every match when available. The other names that coach Marc Brys usually fills in are: revelation Louis Patris – as a central defender already with 6 assists and 2 goals to his name, left-back Hamza Mendyl, central midfielder Malinov, right-winger Al-Tamari and deep striker Mario Gonzalez – 11 goals in 14 games! It is likely that Sofian Kiyine will be the 11th name. This Belgian Moroccan left Standard’s youth academy at the age of 18 to try his luck in Italy. There, he played matches for Chievo Verona, Salernitana, Lazio Roma and Venezia. This brings him to a fine total of 126 matches in Italian professional football.
Did you know?
- They score as many as 64% of their goals in the second half, including 30% in the last quarter.
- Coach Marc Brys is now 8 games unbeaten at the Kuipje with his various teams. He won once with Leuven, drew once with STVV, drew three times with Beerschot, won once and drew once with KV Mechelen and won once with Mouscron. Only during his first passage with Beerschot in 2004 did he have to lose twice.
The Antwerp native was also the referee in the previous edition (1/12/2021). Then he drew 2 red cards at the start of the match (Mabea and Mercier). This season he was already a guest at het Kuipje once. On matchday 8, we won against Anderlecht (2-1). Remarkably, this is going to be tenth game of this competition for him, and 4 of them he will have looked our Kemphans in the eye. The marriage between Smet and the Kuipje, by the way, gets an 8.5/10. After all, we won 5x, played 1x draw and lost just once with him, and let that one losing game be the one against OHL.
Text and statistics: Peter Boons