An improved system, (slightly) more effective offensive players: will Standard be able to attack during the European playoffs?

Standard scored eight goals in their last two games in Sclessin: four against La Gantoise (4-2) and four against Eupen (4-0). This did not suddenly transform Liege’s attack into a model of efficiency, as they finished the regular season in twelfth place in this standings, with 33 goals in 30 games.

But several offensive elements, thanks to the change of two attackers, were able to stand out and increase the threat to make the difference: Wilfried Kanga scored two of his nine goals and gave an assist during these 180 minutes; Kelvin Yeboah scored three of his four goals and provided an assist in the same period of time, while William Balikwisha opened his counterattack (against Gent) and then goal (against Eupen). Earlier, at Union, Moussa Djenepo had also scored his first goal, and the Malian attacking midfielder, still dribbling, did not continue but at least showed his availability.

If it is necessary to put into perspective the orgy of goals against Ghent (at ten o’clock for an hour) and against (a weak) Eupen, it must be admitted that Ivan Leko’s system, a 3-4-1-2 in its offensive version, offers a little more perspective. But, like the team he formed against Eupen, with a maximum of offensive elements (Djenepo and Price on the sides; Alzate, Balikwisha and Kawabe in the middle), will he be able to hold his own against teams like Ghent, Mechelen or St-Truiden?

Respect for balance

The Croatian coach explained that a certain balance must be respected and that one of the keys lies above all in the pressure and the way of playing forward. William Balikwisha, starter against Eupen and player of the match, explained: “You have to take certain risks to disturb your opponent. I enjoy a certain freedom, but I don’t abuse it, because we have to communicate well to not create spaces in case we lose the ball.”

Can Steven Alzate carry the burden of maintaining balance in the middle? ©DHA

In Ghent, where they will begin the European qualifiers and where they have only scored 6 goals in their last eight games, but where they have conceded 19, can Standard be strong at the back and impressive up front? Steven Alzate had held the position of “sentinel” against Eupen. Can this be maintained in Ghent? Aiden O’Neill, still not recovered from his ankle injury, will not be able to take his place.

Hakim Sahabo had started three of the last four trips, but it is not certain that the young Rwandan international will regain his life. So there it is Alzate. With Marlon Fossey returning to the right flank, it’s also a chance for Isaac Price to return to the heart of the game, but in whose place?

A sacrifice in the middle?

If the formula with two attackers has been satisfactory for four games, despite two defeats (at Union and Genk), Kanga and Yeboah need to be fed by one or two supporting players. And therefore there are no missing elements, between Hayao Kawabe, best decisive passer (5 assists); Balikwisha, who returns to the game; Price, if he returns to occupy a central role and while Kamal Sowah no longer has a voice (45 minutes in the last four games).

It is a luxury to have so many possibilities, it remains to be seen if all these beautiful people will be able to raise the level to start the playoffs well. Because Standard, if they want to maintain any hope in the final round, must start with a victory, that is, by scoring goals. And if he scored eight in Sclessin, he only scored two in his last three trips.

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