Not winning three games in a row is un-Western this season. We had to suffer three defeats in a row at the end of August, but since then we have regularly knotted up with three points. The team with the least flattering nickname for their supporters in First Division, is the next task for coach De Roeck’s troops.
There’s no getting around it. Hot news@the Kuipje this week: for a record fee, our striker Lyle Foster was sold to Vincent Kompany’s Burnley. The latter himself had come to admire our South African against Genk, resulting in Lyle signing a contract with the Clarets who are well on their way to promotion to the Premier League. Dream transfer for him! His last feat in yellow and blue colours was the assist for Roman Neustädter’s goal against Waregem. Our likeable German only had to take a slight breath to work the ball into the goal, so ready-made was that ball from Lyle.
Captain Lukas Van Eenoo appeared in the starting line-up again for the first time since dropping out in the match on the sixth matchday. Sixteen games later, he was allowed to don the captain’s armband again and he is on the sigh of some milestones in his career. Saturday, for instance, could be his 150th time donning the Soudal jersey. Should he score, or give an assist, it would be his 100th most decisive action of his career. If that is not enough we can tell you that he will soon play his 400th professional game (he is now at 396).
Two players have to watch out that next time they are not obliged to sit on the penalty bench. Both Sinan Bolat and Thomas Van den Keybus have already got 4 yellow cards under their noses. The next one would result in a suspension resulting in them not getting on the bus towards Eupen.
From the camp of the long-term injured, we see Jan, Erdon and Lucas M. making great strides on a daily basis. We keep seeing them doing more and more taxing and strengthening knee exercises.
Having already seen two players appear towards the exit, everyone is naturally curious to see if they will be replaced. The winter mercato ends next Tuesday at 23:59.
The best-known name is that of their coach Steven Defour, the 34-year-old former Red Devil (52 caps) took the Mechelen baton in his hands on 17 October last year, when Dutchman Danny Buijs did not achieve the results envisaged. You won’t be able to spot Defour in the dugout, however, but you will be able to spot him in the stands. Indeed, he is starting a suspension he suffered in last week’s win against Kortrijk (3-2), when he went to seek redress with referee Denil after the match and had apparently touched him.
In the league, he and his team have only taken the 3 points at their own AFAS stadium. They lost each time at Genk (3-1), Charleroi (1-0), Zulte Waregem (2-0) and Standard (2-0). Everyone will remember the outward match, an advertisement for football. Although we should add that both teams were having an open day at the time.
Two players always start in the Mechelen team: captain Rob Schoofs and right-back Sandy Walsh. Both players also had starring roles in that crazy match in August. Schoofs scored and gave an assist, Walsh gave the assist for the 4-4. Five (former) internationals also played last week against Kortrijk: goalkeeper Coucke, midfielder Verstraete, Scottish defender David Bates, Cape Verdean playmaker Alessio Da Cruz and Swedish striker Kerim Mrabti. Usually the team is completed with Van Hoorenbeeck, Lavalée, Hairemans and Storm. Top shooter is Rob Schoofs with his 5 goals and Geoffry Hairemans is the most involved in a goal (10x).
The 26-year-old from Tielroden will have to manage this regional derby. We already had him on the second matchday (OH Leuven 2-0 loss) and Mechelen had him visiting their own stadium on the 7th and 18th matchdays: Seraing (2-3) and Cercle Brugge (1-1). With his 8th game for us, it suddenly means that we will be the team he has already fielded the most in his career. Four wins, 2 draws and 1 lost game… the one against Leuven at the beginning of the season.
Text and statistics: Peter Boons