Hein Vanhaezebrouck faces an extremely difficult cup assignment with AA Gent: “Don’t dwell too long on that last meeting with Union”

“With zero matches to win, you can just raise the cup”, Hein Vanhaezebrouck summarizes the cup story well. The Buffalos therefore do not have an obvious draw. On a visit to Union, however, AA Gent wants to win a ticket for the semi-finals of the Croky Cup again. Not an easy task in the Dudenpark.

Nevertheless, the Ghent coach certainly does not think his team has a chance: “It is difficult to predict. It’s 50-50, as always (laughs). We’re not going to hide behind injuries or anything like that. They also have a number of absentees. We have recovered some boys after New Year, our selection is now also a bit wider. Before New Year we sometimes had eight or ten absentees. We are not going to complain about that.”


The list of absentees, however, got a little longer after the visit to the Bosuil. Jordan Torunarigha was out with an ankle injury, but the damage to the German seems to be not too bad: “It is not as bad as feared for Jordan. It gets better every day but tomorrow may come just too soon. His opponent blocked Jordan’s foot, which hit the ankle ligaments, but without serious consequences.”

So far the good news: “It must be feasible to play football, in terms of pain. We hope it’s not too bad. It is also noticeably better every day, which is a stroke of luck. We all feared for several weeks or months, it doesn’t look like it now.” Vanhaezebrouck had less good news to report about Andrew Hjulsager: “Andrew has a small hamstring injury. He may also be out for this weekend’s match. He may be unavailable for ten days.”

Due to the defeat, the chances for AA Gent for the Champions’ Play-offs have not exactly increased, but Vanhaezebrouck nevertheless sounds optimistic: “We are still on three fronts and it is our goal to keep it that way. It is not easy. Sometimes you have clubs that reach a final without meeting a single big club. We are used to that, last year was no different and now we meet Union. Genk already had a duel with Anderlecht and now play against Antwerp. It will be no different for Union…”


“That was my responsibility”

In the competition, AA Gent did not exactly deliver a top performance when visiting Union: “I was not there at the previous match”, said Vanhaezebrouck, who indeed had to give up due to illness in October. “That has an influence, but I was partly responsible for that hopeless mission. The choice may not have been wrong, but it was not executed properly. That was my responsibility.”

“The players probably understood what was expected of them, but they didn’t execute it well. Some suddenly chose a different position. Then it’s up to me to put that ‘firm’ right. That didn’t really happen then. It then just babbled a bit without really showing teeth. We now want to do better against a tough opponent, because we have to dare to admit that.”

Nevertheless, Vanhaezebrouck does not want to dwell too long on that 2-0 defeat: “It makes little sense to look back too much at that match, we are in a different period. They haven’t lost a single match since then. We don’t do that much anymore, unfortunately we did against Antwerp last weekend. Other guys may or may not be available now. You sometimes look back, but we should not pay too much attention to it.”


Since the Buffalos came into action again after the World Cup break, scoring turned out to be an insurmountable problem: “No coincidence. Against Cercle Brugge we expected a difficult match and then you have to remain patient. We ended up scoring twice in overtime. We rewarded ourselves too little against Standard and we could have scored more against Antwerp, but after the break we only had one big chance.”

Watch out for Tissoudali

“We are therefore missing some killers. We have one with Hugo Cuypers, but we have also lost Tarik Tissoudali, which is an immense loss. He can often make the difference in such matches. Nevertheless, we try to keep up and compete at the same level. But it is no coincidence that Genk and Union are at the top. They just have more killers. Then you score more goals from fewer moments. That’s what football is about.”

Last Sunday, Vanhaezebrouck saw Union grab the three points in a crazy final phase when visiting Anderlecht: “Union scores on Anderlecht out of the blue, that ball was deflected twice in one phase and then ended in the square. I haven’t seen that with us yet. If we kick at all, it usually passes. That is quality.”

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“Last year we had Tissoudali and then there was a gap in the lists to the next AA Gent player. That’s too low, isn’t it, if you find them at places 30 and 60. Union was in the top 30 with three or four, Bruges with even more. The numbers have to go up with us. You know: Lynen is number one in the pre-assists and the pre-pre-assists, so that’s not surprising when you’re standing there.”

The Buffalos are therefore not fighting with equal arms at the moment, but Vanhaezebrouck mainly hopes for a quick comeback from Tarik Tissoudali: “You want to bring in Cuypers, Hong is not doing too badly either, but you have lost Tissoudali. We don’t get it compensated because Tissoduali’s numbers were so great. De Sart was also suddenly out for half a year. If everyone is ever fully fit, maybe it will be all right.”

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