Enduring a torrid spell that has accounted for their coach, R. Standard de Liège could be forgiven for lamenting a visit from Sevilla FC – not according to Jelle Van Damme.
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R. Standard de Liège skipper Jelle Van Damme said his side are in this together as they look to lift the gloom that this week accounted for coach Guy Luzon.
The Israeli resigned on Monday after a torrid spell that has left Standard languishing 12th in Belgium's 16-club top flight. A visit from UEFA Europa League title holders Sevilla FC does not seem too timely from the outside, but Van Damme reckons it could be just what the team – who will be led by Luzon's former assistant Ivan Vukomanović – need.
"The way we play will be more important than the result because we have to show we can get out of our current difficult situation," the defender said. "The positive thing is that we have nothing to lose. We have to recover our pride and show how grateful we are to play for Standard."
Standard have lost seven of their last 12 games in all competitions, including a 2-1 reverse at Feyenoord on matchday two which put them third in Group G, a point behind leaders Sevilla. They were heading for another defeat when Sunday's home match against rock-bottom SV Zulte Waregem was abandoned on 89 minutes with the visitors 2-1 up. "My message to the fans is to stay calm," said Van Damme. "I'm convinced we will get out of this situation."
Sevilla have no such problems in terms of supporter engagement, with coach Unai Emery speaking effusively about 'Sevillanism', the unique bond between the side and their fans forged in Europe over the past decade. There are no issues with form, either, after Sunday's 2-0 win at Elche CF lifted them to second in the Liga.
Indeed, the suggestion from the media on the eve of the game was that domestic success may become a priority. Emery swiftly corrected them. "I want to emphasise that it's a key match for the group stage," he replied. "Whether we win or lose could change a lot.
"We respect Standard regardless of their situation. Perhaps they are not at their best but they are still strong and have very good players. We know about the great stadium atmosphere and while we have faith in ourselves we know it's going to be very difficult."
Standard are certainly determined, with Van Damme adding: "We will succeed again. Everybody has chance now to question themselves. We are in this together – club president, players, staff and supporters."