Genk v Mechelen
The first game in the Pro League this weekend sees the two sides to have made winning starts to their Play-Off II campaigns. Genk fought hard to ensure they retained the final play-off spot from their hard-charging rivals Sint-Truiden, and last week beat Gent away from home to make a winning start. Mechelen were somewhat fortunate to beat Charleroi last weekend, but in these play-offs performances are much less important than getting points on the board.
Both sides will be keen to keep up their winning records here, but Genk are heading into the play-offs as the in-form team, and they have an excellent home record. They lost just four times at home all season, and were beaten only twice in 7 games against their fellow top-8 sides, despite finishing 8th in the final table.
Since December 16th they have lost only once at home in 9 games, winning 7 and drawing the other. This impressive run included a 4-1 dismantling of today’s opponents Mechelen, who were able to gain access to the play-offs almost entirely off their own home form. They finished 2nd in the home league table, but way down in 13th away from home, lower than any other play-off side by a distance.
Mechelen had mustered just five away wins all season, and their last victory on the road came all the way back in February. They have conceded just under a goal per game more than they have scored when playing away from the AFAS-Stadion, shipping 2.18 per 90, whilst scoring 1.24.
The hosts by contrast score more than a goal per game more than they concede whilst playing on their own patch. They score an impressive 2.29 goals per game, whilst averaging a shade over 1 goal per game conceded, at 1.06. An impressive defensive record has seen them keep clean sheets in just under half of their home fixtures this season, including 3 of their last 5 home games. Their attack has been firing too, having scored twice or more in four of their last five at the Luminus Arena. By contrast, visitors Mechelen have scored twice or more just once in their last 5 away games.
No game in the play-offs should be easy, but Mechelen’s struggles on the road have been extremely noticeable, and Genk will be desperate to take full advantage. A win here could put them in pole position for the chance to play in Europe next season, lifting them well clear of Mechelen and retaining their advantage over Charleroi before their clash next weekend.
Sporting Charleroi v Gent
The second fixture in the Play-Offs II takes place the next day, where the two winless sides meet at the Stade du Pays in Charleroi. Gent are already qualified for the Europa League, and even if they finish top of this play-off group cannot improve this standing, so their season is essentially over already.
As predicted, they have been taking it easy, and 4 of the 11 starters in last week’s game are yet to cross the 10 game threshold in the league for the side from Ghent. Five of the players in the top-10 in the squad for minutes throughout the season did not feature, and this rotation and opportunities for youngsters is likely to continue throughout the play-offs.
They are not exactly playing their reserves but it is a team unused to each other, and missing both Depoitre and Tissoudali, who have combined for 29 goals as their main strike pairing this season, well over half the total the team has scored altogether. Genk dominated their hosts, outshooting them 18-3 and generating 2.81xG to Gent’s pitiful 0.31. The 1-0 flattered Gent, and with nothing to play for, there is little to suggest they will be any better this week, especially away from home.
Their hosts Charleroi blow hot and cold, but they were unlucky last week against Mechelen, and have a tendency to blow teams away when they are on form, or to self-destruct when faced with competent opposition. They have not seen both sides score in any of their last 5 home games, including 2-0, 3-0 and 5-0 wins, a 3-0 loss and a 0-0 draw.
Both teams have found the net in just 4 of 17 games at the Stade du Pays all season long, the lowest total in the division. Meanwhile Gent have seen both sides score in only 5 of 17 games on the road this Pro League season, good for the second-lowest amount in the division.
Charleroi have failed to score in 7 of 17 home games this Pro League season, which is beaten only by the two sides in the relegation places, Seraing and Beerschot. Meanwhile Gent have failed to score on the road in 6 games, which is the same number that rock-bottom Beerschot failed to score in during the regular season. Both sides also lead the league in home and away clean sheets respectively. No side can match Charleroi’s 9 home shut-outs, whilst Gent are joint-top for away games without conceding, sitting at 8 of 17.
With a weakened side likely, this is a must-win game for Charleroi. Gent will not be a walkover but they are the only side with nothing to gain in these play-offs and everything to lose. No player will want to be injured, most will be happy to sit on the bench and there is likely to be plenty of youngsters thrown in at the deep end. Both sides have tended to suffer through low-scoring affairs this season, and this is likely to be no different, with a changed Gent side again struggling to create and a Charleroi side that has missed the mark at home more than most in 2021-22.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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