With the Belgian season soon heading into its winter break, Club Brugge are hitting some of their best form of the season following a reasonably tentative start to the campaign. With confidence high, they are ready to take their place among the top sides at home and battle for the title - and UEFA Cup glory - in the spring.
"We've caught up with [RSC] Anderlecht and [R.] Standard [de Liège] and they still have to play each other before the winter break," said Ceulemans ahead of yesterday's 2-2 draw with KRC Genk, a result which leaves his side three points off the summit. "With some of my players coming back from injury I think we can definitely challenge for the title."
Burgeoning form has been encouraging competition among Ceulemans' squad, and several youngsters got their chance to impress as Club Brugge held FC Bayern München to a 1-1 draw in their final Group A game - a match which featured a strike that Javier Portillo called "one of the most beautiful of my career".
Teenagers Jason Vandelannoite and Jeanvion Yulu-Matondo emerged with reputations enhanced, earning praise from goalkeeper Tomislav Butina. "I've known for a long time that lads like Jason and Yulu had quality," said the Croatian. "Club Brugge is not just about the first XI, and the youngsters did very well."
Ceulemans has a squad of 30 players but would love to have a more settled team. He said: "I don't like to change the team too much but injuries have meant I've never been able to pick the same XI two matches running," he said. "Players need to play together to be on the same wavelength."
However, considering the situation that Belgium's most-capped international player inherited when he took over from Trond Sollied at the start of the season, he cannot be too disappointed. Having lost a number of first-team players in the summer, Club Brugge are back on their feet again.
"I'm happy with that," he said. "But there's still room for improvement. We're not yet playing the kind of football I'd like us to play. The return of my best goalscorer Rune Lange, who hasn't yet played a full match, will help and other players are about to return to action as well."
For Ceulemans, the side remains a work in progress and he will not rest until the job is complete. "
At the moment I'd say the team have reached about 80 per cent of their potential. If we manage to reach 100 per cent after the winter break then we've every chance of retaining the Belgian title."
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