For the first time since 1986, the Belgian championship will be decided by a title play-off, with R. Standard de Liège and RSC Anderlecht finishing the season level on points.
On Saturday, Standard goalkeeper Sinan Bolat saved an added-time penalty from KAA Gent's Bryan Ruiz to give the defending champions three points to equal the 34-match total set by Anderlecht. Although the Brussels side have a superior goal difference, neither this nor the clubs' head-to-head record is used to determine which team finishes top. The solution is a two-legged tie with the first game taking place tonight at Anderlecht's Constant Vanden Stock Stadium and a decider on Sunday in Liege.
Both fixtures are sold out as fans await the first Eerste Klasse play-off in 23 years since Anderlecht were crowned champions on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate score against Club Brugge KV. "It will be very tight," said Anderlecht coach Ariël Jacobs, whose side won and lost against Standard during the regular season. "My players seem mentally and physically very fresh to me. It could be a very tiring match on Thursday and then the question will be how well we can recover for the trip to Liege on Sunday."
Standard boss Laszlo Bölöni, who will be without suspended Serbian striker Milan Jovanović for the first leg, is taking it easy on his players in the build-up to the deciding matches. "Intense training sessions are no longer part of the preparation at this stage," the Romanian said. "It now comes down to recovery plus mental and tactical preparation. How can I surprise Anderlecht? I don't think that's possible unless we put Steven Defour in goal, but that does not seem such a good idea."