R. Standard de Liège were perhaps guilty of letting their guard down at times during the first half of the Eerste Klasse season and, as they gear up for the return after the winter break, their coach Laszlo Bölöni is eager for his side to gain consistency.
Reigning champions Standard claimed six points from their games against the other giants of Belgian football, RSC Anderlecht and Club Brugge KV, yet still find themselves four points adrift of Les Mauves. "With victories over Anderlecht and Club Brugge it's just not right that we aren't leaders, but we dropped some valuable points elsewhere," admitted Bölöni. "We have not always succeeded in replicating our form shown in top matches." Indeed, for a team that coasted through to the UEFA Cup Round of 32, beating Everton FC and Sevilla FC on the way, Standard were not expected to lose to the likes of SV Zulte Waregem and R. Charleroi SC, especially at home.
Bölöni's side hope to start clawing back their four-point deficit to Anderlecht against struggling FCV Dender EH on Saturday and, despite the departure of defender Dante Bonfim to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in December, the coach is confident he has more than enough strength in depth. "We have to learn to use our individual qualities to benefit the team as a whole," added the 55-year-old, who has brought in KRC Genk youngsters Christian Benteke and Sinan Bolat during the month-long winter break. "We respect individual qualities, but the team unit is most important of all."
That is a viewpoint shared by new Anderlecht signing Tom De Sutter. "I scored seven in the first half for Cercle [Brugge KSV] and hope to add plenty more here," said the Belgian international striker. "The most important thing, however, is to help Anderlecht win the title. If that's possible while scoring many goals then great, but if it means providing a more all-round contribution then that's also fine." De Sutter can make an immediate impression against former employers Cercle Brugge on Friday.
It could all have been very different if the Eerste Klasse season had halted at the start of December. At that stage it was Club Brugge that topped the table, yet they have not picked up a point in three outings since defeating KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen 3-0 on 30 November. In that time losses in the UEFA Cup and, on Sunday, in the Belgian Cup sealed their exit from those competitions and coach Jacky Mathijssen admits the pressure is mounting as he prepares his side for a meeting with KV Mechelen. "A coach without good results behind him feels the pressure," he said. "
It's logical that doubts should arise around me and I feel them, but we have to look ahead."
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