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The advent of Christmas football in Belgium sees one game fall foul to the weather and another because of a club crisis...

Friday

KV Mechelen P v P Germinal Beerschot*

Saturday

Cercle Brugge v Mouscron**
Lokeren v KAA Gent
Roeselare v Sint-Truiden
Kortrijk v Westerlo
KRC Genk v Zulte Waregem

Sunday***

Charleroi v Standard
Anderlecht v Club Brugge


* The match scheduled between KV Mechelen and Germinal Beerschot was postponed due to the weather.

** The match scheduled between Cercle Brugge and Mouscron has been forfeited by Mouscron as there was insufficient players prepared to turn out for the crisis-stricken club. Therefore Cercle will be awarded the three points. It should also be noted that the pitch was given the all-clear after heavy snow in Belgium.

*** It is not yet clear whether the two games on Sunday will go ahead as planned.

Lokeren v KAA Gent

The next team to attempt to stop De Buffalo's are Jacky Mathijssen's Lokeren side, fresh off their first win under his guidance. Last time out Lokeren were almost gifted the three points against Mouscron's B-team however any 5-0 win is destined to instil confidence in a side. Mathijssen will ensure though that his side are under no illusions and they have a very big Christmas period ahead of them. Gent came from behind last Sunday to record a 2-1 win over Racing Genk and after Anderlecht are the form team in Belgium.

KAA Gent will once again have to make do without Slovenian striker Zlatan Ljubijankic who has a hamstring injury but Milos Maric has shaken off an adductor problem. In-form Bosnian attacker Adnan Custovic may miss out with a back injury. Lokeren will still have to do without goalkeeper Boubacar Copa who is recovering from an operation as well as Ali Bouabe who has a hamstring strain and young forward Nill De Pauw who is suffering from a stress fracture. The player to watch is Gent's Milos Maric who runs the show in midfield and is more than capable of getting his fair share of goals.

Prediction : Lokeren won't be facing such weak opposition this week and I can't see Gent skating on thin ice here. 0-3

Roeselare v Sint-Truiden

After an incredible win over Standard in Sclessin last week, bottom side Roeselare enter the Christmas period with renewed vigour as they try to escape the danger of the relegation zone. Sint-Truiden are still in tenth spot but lost at home to a good Kortrijk side last time out. The game is going ahead thanks to some fantastic efforts from the staff and the fans who volunteered to help clear the snow from the pitch. 

Roeselare coach Dennis van Wijk has virtually a full squad to pick from whilst his counterpart Guido Brepoels will be without captain Peter Delorge who is serving a suspension for picking up five yellow cards. Mario Cantaluppi takes the captain's armband and Issame Charai looks set to replace Delorge. The player to watch is Joeri Dequevy who scored a superb winning goal against Standard last week.

Prediction: Momentum is key in football and Roeselare have it now. I think they'll give their supporters yet more to cheer about. 2-1

Kortrijk v Westerlo

Kortrijk have been one of the surprise packages of the season so far and esteemed manager Georges Leekens deserves a lot of credit. In recent weeks they have won the derby against Zulte Waregem, narrowly lost in Anderlecht and beat Sint-Truiden 2-0 culminating in De Kerels sitting in sixth spot above champions Standard and on course for the play-offs though it will prove difficult to stay there. Westerlo still harbour ambitions of a top six place however they'll need to score a lot more goals. Last time out they lost convincingly at home to Anderlecht and could have few complaints with the 2-0 scoreline.

Kortrijk will be hoping to welcome back topscorer Ibou though fellow strikers Christian Benteke and Leon Benko have been stepping up to the plate in his absence. Westerlo will have to do without Glenn van Asten and Moses Adams who aren't fit however they do welcome back their (and Belgium's) topscorer from last season Alfonso Ruiz who will in all likelihood begin on the bench. The player to watch is Mohamed Messoudi who has added a touch of quality to the Kortrijk midfield since arriving from Willem II.

Prediction : Kortrijk are a good unit and difficult to beat. I see them strengthening their top six claims against Westerlo. 1-0.

KRC Genk v Zulte Waregem

While supporters have been out in force across Belgium helping to clear their stadiums of snow, things have been less strenuous in Genk as the Cristal Arena has undersoil heating installed. However De Smurfen have other problems to worry about with their side languishing in twelfth place in the standings. Despite taking the lead in het Ottenstadion last week, they still came away empty-handed from Gent. Zulte Waregem were involved in an eventful clash at home to Cercle Brugge which saw three men sent off however the side from Oost-Vlaanderen held their nerve to take maximum points.

Newly-installed Genk coach Francky Vercauteren will be without former Twente and AZ striker Stein Huysegems who is still struggling with a calf problem and Brazilian midfielder Ederson has a sore knee which has limited him to training indoors. Karel D'Haene is suspended for the visitors who also have to do without the injured trio of Thomas Matton, Stijn Meert and Stijn Minne. The player to watch is Israeli attacker Elyaniv Barda who looks to be coming back to his best form and he could prove the catalyst for some improved performances from Genk.

Prediction : This is a hard match to call with Waregem going strongly - I'll tip both sides to share the spoils. 1-1.

Charleroi v Standard

This encounter brings together the two biggest sides in Wallonia - Charleroi from Hainaut in the west of the region and Belgian's champion team Standard Liege from the eastern province that takes its name from its largest city. Both sides have endured rather than enjoyed the league campaign to date. Charleroi did manage a creditable scoreless draw in Antwerpen in their previous match however they sit fourteenth and just one point above the drop zone. However I doubt whether Tommy Craig would swap places with his Standard counterpart Boloni Laszlo who is steadfastly refusing to answer questions about his future at Sclessin. The pressure mounted on the Romanian after a humiliating 1-0 home defeat at the hands of bottom of the table Roeselare which leaves Standard in seventh spot.

Standard have to still do without injured captain Steven Defour and Milan Jovanovic has just successfully undergone an operation however Dieumerci Mbokani is fit and named in the match squad. He should line up alongside Igor de Camargo upfront. Charleroi name an unchanged match squad as Peter Franquart and Sebastien Chabaud are still injured. The man to keep a track of is Axel Witsel who has underperformed this season but with Standard in crisis he'll be looking to get back to his best and help Les Rouches out of their slump.

Prediction : Standard may struggle in this game as you can bet Charleroi will give that extra 10 per cent of effort but I think they'll just about sneak a win. 1-2.

Anderlecht v Club Brugge


The biggest game in the Belgian calendar. First against second. A sold out Constant Vanden Stock. Both sides coming off triumphant Europa League victories against opposition from stronger leagues.  This will be the clash the Jupiler League hopes flays the critics of Christmas football.

Anderlecht are seven points clear at the top of their fiercest rivals and will be hoping to put yet more clear purple water between themselves and the rest. They have won eight games in a row and look unstoppable with depth in every position. Ajax were also brushed side in the Amsterdam ArenA as RSCA booked a last 32 draw against the Basques of Athletic Bilbao. In their last league game, Les Mauves brushed Westerlo aside

Club Brugge have consistently been in the top two of the league throughout the season and look to be the best bet to stop Paars-Wit. They are the last team to stop Anderlecht from winning in the league, beating them 4-2  earlier in the season at the Jan Breydelstadion. The manner of a result suggested that Blauw-Zwart would be the team to beat however as winter has set in, Anderlecht have shown an incredible determination not to be left heartbroken as they were last season after the play-offs. Adrie Koster's side will be full of confidence after triumphing against Toulouse in the Europa League thanks to a late Ivan Perisic goal which helped them put their disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Mechelen behind them.

Coach Ariel Jacobs can field his strongest side with the notable exception of young sensation Romelu Lukaku who is suffering from an adductor problem. However this is Anderlecht and they have a ready-made top class replacement in Argentine hitman Nicolas Frutos who has scored in both his league appearances since coming back from injury. He will play upfront and be supported either side by in-form wingers Jonathan Legear and Mbark Boussoufa.

Adrie Koster has no injury worries and will too field his very best side, which only serves to add to the huge anticipation building up ahead of the topper. He named exactly the same 18-man squad as he did against Toulouse with Ivorian striker Dorge Kouemaha lining up as a lone striker in a system mirroring that of Anderlecht.

It would be somewhat remiss of me to name merely one player to watch given the array of talent that will be on show in Brussels tomorrow night. There are battles to be fought all over the pitch and there should be goals. Anderlecht are a very attacking side and Club Brugge simply have to win. I think ultimately this clash will be decided by how the respective centre-back pairings cope with the powerful strikers both sides possess.

Juhasz Roland has been heavily linked with a move to England and that may draw closer if he can shackle the in-form Kouemaha though he will still remember the mauling he received from Standard's brilliant trio of Mbokani, Jovanovic and De Camargo in last season's title play-off. Ryan Donk scored last week but he will have his work cut out to deal with the imposing Frutos who may have too much brute force for the former RKC and AZ defender. Allied to the fact that Paraguayan Antonin Alcaraz has looked pretty shaky of late, Frutos may just make the difference.

Prediction : This will be a cracker for the neutral but I'm going for Anderlecht to edge out Club in a thriller. 3-2.

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