RSC Anderlecht coach Ariël Jacobs has called on his side to get their new campaign off to a positive start by defeating Belarussian champions FC BATE Borisov.
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RSC Anderlecht coach Ariël Jacobs has called on his side to get their season off to a winning start when they meet Belarussian title-holders FC BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
"In recent years we always had trouble in the first part of the season and ended with a strong finish," he said. "This time we have to get off to a good start immediately." As always, expectations are high at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. "That's normal. The club wants the highest and the best."
Strength in depth
Jacobs, who celebrated his 55th birthday last Friday, is about to begin his first full season at the Anderlecht helm. The former assistant coach replaced Frank Vercauteren last November and lead the club to second place in the Eerste Klasse and victory in the Belgian Cup. If Anderlecht are to wrestle the title back from R. Standard de Liège, though, Jacobs believes the entire squad will have to play a part.
"The eleven starters must feel that another player is always ready to take over from them," he said. "The squad has become more balanced and we have become stronger during this summer transfer window." Though Ahmed Hassan and Mbo Mpenza have left, the arrivals of Arnold Kruiswijk and Nemanja Rnic in defence, Hernán Losada and Cheikhou Kouyaté in midfield and Matías Suarez and Rubenilson Kanu up front give Anderlecht reason to enter the new season with confidence.
First up are BATE, who lead their domestic league at the mid-point of the season and will have a physical advantage over an Anderlecht team who do not kick off their league season until 15 August. Consequently, Jacobs, whose side defeated Roda JC 2-1 in a friendly last Wednesday, is hoping home advantage will tell with sell-out crowd at their backs.
'Nothing to lose'
"After a month of preparation we are on schedule, but we won't really know where we stand until Wednesday," he said. "BATE might play in a so-called lesser league, but they have already played  league matches and two European matches. That is an advantage for them. They are also still unbeaten, and will come into the game with the feeling they have nothing to lose. We will have to play good football ourselves and have to achieve a good result at home on Wednesday."