Home » today » Sport » Why the Playoffs Won’t Go Away Anytime Soon

Why the Playoffs Won’t Go Away Anytime Soon

Truly nowhere in Europe is the tension so heightened in March as in the Jupiler Pro League. The denouement of the regular season, and the mysterious halving of the points – at least for the Champions’ Play-offs, they are not halved for the Play-downs – is the annual highlight of the competition format as it exists today. And who aims to stretch the tension for as long as possible for as many clubs as possible.

Three weeks ago, several top clubs met in Bever Castle to discuss what the competition should look like from the summer of 2025, when the current TV contract expires. European clubs in particular, such as Club Brugge, are in favor of reducing the number of participating teams and the number of match days. However, it seems unlikely that this will happen by reaching the play-offs. Even though the formula feels very artificial, it does what it was invented for fifteen years ago: promise as much excitement as possible for everyone. The football leaders accept that the stress affects quality and jeopardizes the chances of the Belgian teams in the European cups.

The 2023-2024 vintage seems to be a grand cru again. The calendar maker could not have laid out the cards for the final match day better. The four teams that have a chance to win the last two tickets of the Champions’ Play-offs will compete in direct matches against four teams that are fighting relegation on Sunday. AA Gent-Charleroi, OH Leuven-KV Mechelen, Westerlo-Genk and Cercle-RWDM are matches in which every team has to go all out for the win.

Genk and KV Mechelen have their fate in their own hands thanks to their victories last weekend. AA Gent threw away a lead over Union after a good match and has to count on missteps by two competitors to get into the Champions’ Play-offs. Cercle must also win and count on others.

At the bottom, OH Leuven can still overtake Charleroi and Westerlo to escape the Play-downs. RWDM cannot escape this, but must collect points as quickly as possible to stay in the top division.

What makes the final day even better for the calendar maker is that the four most popular clubs in the country – Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Antwerp and Standard – are not directly involved in the nerve-wracking chess game on four fields. As a result, their matches do not have to be played at the same time and the request of TV rights holder DAZN Eleven to broadcast them separately could be met. Standard and Anderlecht are already in action on Saturday, STVV-Club Brugge and the top match Antwerp-Union are played earlier on Sunday. At the start of the season, the Pro League made it a point not to ram a kickoff change down the fans’ throats at the eleventh hour. An exception will be made for the denouement of the regular competition.

Weaponize with irony

Yet the question is whether the Jupiler Stress Competition does not mainly create losers in the long term. Union and Ghent played an exciting top match on Sunday evening on the penultimate match day, but players, trainers and supporters were left disappointed afterwards. Union is having a memorable season on three fronts, but realizes that it can still outsource everything. That prospect almost makes Union coach Alexander Blessin dejected. The German talker arms himself with irony to protect himself from disappointment later. “That Anderlecht will have three points (after the division of points)? Last week there were four, that’s not going to make a difference. What is more important is that my team feels good.”

While Anderlecht turned it into a half-practice match at RWDM – coach Brian Riemer experimented with a different composition in his midfield after the break – Union has to build up confidence and patch up troops. Mohamed Amoura is at his wits’ end. After Kevin Rodriguez and Kevin Mac Allister, Noah Sadiki also dropped out this week. Union travels to Turkey this week for an unnecessary second leg in the Conference League. However, the focus on Sunday is on the top match in Antwerp, where it must win to prevent Anderlecht from sneaking closer. In the cup final on Ascension Day (May 9), Antwerp Union can once again steal a second chance at a prize.

Union has not lost in Belgium since September 16 and has been charming friend and foe for six months with attractive and positive football. The fact that that team of all people could end up empty-handed after a spectacular comeback by the established order is also part of the Belgian competition formula. And perhaps is a reason why it continues to exist.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.