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Anderlecht as strong as ever

Published: Wednesday 4 August 2004, 15.40CET
RSC Anderlecht begin their defence of the Belgian title with two new faces including Mbo Mpenza.

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Published: Wednesday 4 August 2004, 15.40CET

Anderlecht as strong as ever

RSC Anderlecht begin their defence of the Belgian title with two new faces including Mbo Mpenza.
RSC Anderlecht begin their Belgian title defence on Friday boosted by the addition of two new players and by their success in warding off interest from foreign clubs in their star names.

Key players remain
Midfielder Fabrice Ehret from French side RC Strasbourg and Belgian international Mbo Mpenza from R. Excelsior de Mouscron are the new faces at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium and they will improve a squad which Aruna Dindane, Nenad Jestrovic, Christian Wilhelmsson and Vincent Kompany are still part of.

A promise kept
"We said we wanted to keep this team together, and we want to keep that promise," said Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck. What remains to be seen is whether talented youngsters like 16-year-old Anthony Vanden Borre and 18-year-old Kompany can maintain the impressive strides they made last season.

Brugge stay quiet
Traditionally, Club Brugge KV have been Anderlecht's closest challengers but last season's runners-up and Belgian Cup winners have made no summer signings. Their reinforcements arrived last January in the shape of Jonathan Blondel, Victor and Boško Balaban.

Balaban threat
The 25-year-old Croatian striker Balaban is Brugge's main goalscoring hope following Andrés Mendoza's move to FC Metalurh Donetsk. Assistant coach Dany Verlinden said: "Besides scoring goals, Balaban also works very hard for the team." Veteran goalkeeper Verlinden has called time on his own career and is succeeded by Tomislav Butina.

Mpenza to be missed?
R. Standard de Liège would normally be ranked among the favourites for a top-three finish but the loss of star attacker and Belgian international Emile Mpenza, who has joined Hamburger SV, could undermine their chances.

Defence reinforced
In former AFC Ajax striker Wamberto, Standard hope to have found a good replacement, and with the signing of Eric Deflandre from Olympique Lyonnais they have also added experience to their defence.

Vandereycken's challenge
The 1999 and 2002 champions KRC Genk recently swapped Dutch coach Sef Vergoossen for former Belgian international René Vandereycken. Formerly in charge of Dutch team FC Twente, Vandereycken will look to bring the club back to prominence. Another major coaching change has taken former Belgium coach George Leekens from Mouscron to KAA Gent.

Two depart
Philippe Saint-Jean is now at the helm at Mouscron, who finished fifth last term. However, his new charges may struggle without last season's First Division top scorer Luigi Pieroni, who has joined AJ Auxerre, and Mbo Mpenza.

Improvements sought
KVC Westerlo, under the command of Belgium's record cap-holder Jan Ceulemans, will look to build on their sixth position last time, while another former international, Franky Van der Elst, has the hot seat at KSC Lokeren OV.

Brussels buy
FC Brussels and KV Oostende are the newly-promoted clubs with the former built on what remained of the bankrupt RWD Molenbeek. They have recruited Ivory Coast striker Venance Zézé from Gent and Bjørn Riise from Standard.

Okon for Oostende
Oostende would appear to be the side with most to do to stay in the top flight though coach Gilbert Bodart has acquired experience with the signing of Australian Paul Okon, the former Brugge, Leeds United AFC, and S.S. Lazio player.

Last updated: 04/08/04 22.57CET

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