Antwerp will dive into the Champions Play Offs next week together with RC Genk, Union and KAA Gent/Club Brugge (cross out what does not fit Sunday 23/04). And for Antwerp, the goal is clear: to become champion.
Antwerp started the season strongly with an unprecedented run of 27/27. A series that could not last and was stopped on the field of KV Kortrijk. What followed was a tough series of matches up to the World Cup roughly. Then the GreatOld himself.
And how, in the competition in 2023 only lost twice: in Union and unearned at home against Charleroi. In that period they also played very good football, Stengs was drawn to midfield and Vermeeren blossomed in midfield.
Scoring is difficult
Also in recent weeks it has only been good at Antwerp with 15/18 (those damned Zebras anyway), at least that’s how it seems on paper. In Zulte Waregem, Antwerp had to rely on a double from Alderweireld in the slot. At home against Cercle Brugge, the captain had to repeat his trick again in the 85th minute and also against a Kortrijk that had nothing to win or lose, it was only won by a margin of one goal.
Creating opportunities succeeds for Antwerp, but finishing them turns out to be so difficult. When Onuachu left Genk in January, we all thought Janssen would overtake him in no time. In the meantime, the Dutchman has caught up with him, but with two goals since mid-January, he has already been overtaken by Cuypers, Bruno and Ueda.
Fortunately, in the back it looks like a house with 18 clean sheets. The only problem is that the teams in the Champions Play Offs will soon know the goal. Genk scored 3x in the mutual confrontations, Union 4x. Antwerp won and lost once against both title candidates.
At AZ they wondered until today how to score against Anderlecht, which had not conceded a goal for 540 minutes. Racing Genk demonstrated how by making 5. The defense of Antwerp may be there, but if players like Boniface, Teuma, Paintsil or Trésor feel like it, Butez can experience a very difficult afternoon.
Up to the hole
And if you always have to go against Zulte Waregem, Cercle Brugge and KV Kortrijk, you may fall short when the prizes are handed out in the playoffs. And maybe this season will be just the stepping stone to next season, when the title should be a must.
Antwerp had already made the step towards a top club, this year they established their name as a stable top club. There is hardly a greater compliment for the work of Van Bommel, Overmars & Co. But whether Paul Gheysens can live with that without taking the title…