The calendar maker had foreseen a rocky start for our Kemphans. Four games we are far and the standings do not lie. We played against numbers 1, 2 and 4. The derby against KV Mechelen is the next stop to look for that first three-pointer of the season, knowing that the Maneblussers managed to can Union in their own stadium last weekend with a dry 4-0.
Any optimistic Kemphaan had hoped for a little more points after those first four days of play. Every realist knew this was not going to be an obvious course. Coach Jonas De Roeck – who, incidentally, was doing some sprinting with his group of players at the end of training this week – started in the four games already played, each time with a different base. After Sinan Bolat’s injury, Nick Gillekens appeared in the team against Anderlecht. In defence, we also had to make a change just before the warm-up. Jordan Bos had become unwell and the assistant team manager’s orders were to take him to the hospital in Geel as soon as possible for emergency surgery on his appendix. Jordan will not be able to play for some time as a result. His likely replacement will be chosen between Edi Jordanov, Tuur Rommens or Ravil Tagir. If Tuur is chosen, he will become the 18th player to start in the starting line-up this season. Nacer Chadli could possibly become the 19th. His raid against Anderlecht showed that he could lead the young group of players. And who knows, maybe Lukas Van Eenoo, who rejoined the group training sessions this week, could also claim to start.
Last season, this encounter ended in a 2-0 victory for our Kemphians. Before that, we were waiting for another maximum points against the Malinois since 2016. In the all-time encounters at the Kuipje (16), the balance tilts just in Mechelen’s favour. We won five times, played five draws and lost six. The goal difference is in our favour though (23-19), although that 8-0 score in the blessed year 2000 has a lot to do with that.
Ex-Red Devil Steven Defour has now been at the helm for 31 games. The highlight for him was the (lost) cup final against Antwerp. This season he started with a clever draw at the Jan Breydelstadion. After a brilliant free kick by Schoofs, who made it 0-1, Igor Thiago was able to counter-score via the eleven-metre mark. This was followed by two defeats by the smallest of scores, against Gent and RWDM and then last week they unpacked with that handsome victory against Union. Remarkably, the statistics in that match were in favour of the Brusselers, with only Mechelen’s sights – most importantly, of course – being set better.
The likely eleven for Saturday are:
- Goalkeeper Gaëtan Coucke: has had 1 call-up for the Red Devils, and some for the U21, but has yet to get any effective playing minutes.
- Right-back Sandy Walsh: featured in the starting line-up for the first time this season last week, after being out with injury earlier.
- Central defensive duo is tall Scot David Bates (1m93) and Belgian Jordi Vanlerberghe.
- The left-back spot is for Daam Foulon. Ex-Beveren and spent the past three years at Italian side Benevento, where he made 83 appearances, scoring three goals and providing five assists
- At centre-back are captain Rob Schoofs and the very young Ngal’ayel Mukau, who has always played for Mechelen outside one year at Zulte Waregem.
- Geoffry Hairemans – last week’s man of the match – and Nikola Storm have occupied the flank for several years. Geoffrey is entering his fifth Mechelen year, Nikola his sixth.
- Swede Kerim Mrabti and German Lion Lauberbach are the two most forward pawns. Mrabti came over from England’s Birmingham three years ago and in 98 appearances, he scored 22x and gave 16x the final pass. Lauberbach is new since this summer, the Mechelen scouts found him in the Second German Bundesliga with Eintracht Braunschweig.
- Brent Staessens
- 26 years old
- Affiliated to VK Tielrode
- Debut in the highest league: 14/12/2021 (Cercle Brugge vs Seraing 2-0)
- KVC Westerlo: 9 (6 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat)
- This means that Westerlo will also be the club he has whistled most often. Lommel is currently on par.
- KV Mechelen matches: 4 (3 defeats and 1 draw)
- At the previous edition – on 28/01/2023 – he was also the referee, result: 2-0
Text and statistics: Peter Boons