Karel Geraerts knows that Antwerp is one of the few teams that can control Union: “Learning from the first leg”

Karel Geraerts misses Burgess, but is not worried. Both Sykes and Machida can replace the Briton at the center back. — © BELGIUM

The top matches follow each other in rapid succession for Union: with Anderlecht and Ghent, two top matches have already been won in a row, can they also do that trick against Antwerp? “We have to learn from our mistakes in the first leg”, Union coach Karel Geraerts (41) has not forgotten the 4-2 defeat at the Bosuil.

Thomas Cami

Since Union’s return to the highest level, Antwerp turned out to be one of the few teams that can keep the Brussels team under control. Union lost three times, drew once and won only once. The last confrontation took place on August 31, when Antwerp won convincingly 4-2. “Those were indeed heavy numbers, but we also remember the circumstances of that defeat. We quickly scored an own goal and Lazare was also ruled out”, says Geraerts. “It is up to us to learn from those mistakes. Antwerp is of course a strong team. There is a collective with players who can make a difference individually. As far as I’m concerned, Toby Alderweireld is their great leader, he continuously manages the team. The danger of Antwerp can come from anywhere, so we have to be on our guard.”

Who replaces Burgess?

Union cannot call on Christian Burgess to stop those men with individual actions. The 31-year-old Brit took his fifth yellow card against Anderlecht and is suspended. A loss, because Burgess has not missed a single league game this season and he is the undisputed patron at the heart of the Brussels defense. “But we have enough options for replacement”, Geraerts is not too worried. “With Machida and Sykes I have two players available to cover his absence. That is only positive. First and foremost we will see how the players have digested the cup match against Ghent, then I can make decisions. I already have certain things in mind, and we will go for it,” said the 41-year-old Limburger.

The preference seems to go to Machida. The Japanese made his first minutes of the season against Ghent after a lingering injury, but now he finally seems to have left again. “His injury was pretty bizarre. He had problems with his adductors, but no real solution was found”, Geraerts analyzes the long rehabilitation of the Japanese. “After a while he started training again, but he relapsed. He then went to Japan to continue his rehabilitation, in the presence of his family. That was also important on a mental level. Since our resumption after the World Cup break, he has been training with us again and he is doing very well. I’m sure he suffered, for example he had to miss our European group stage. But he’s back, and I think we’ve all seen him play a great game against Ghent. That is only positive for the team.”

General rehearsal

In any case, Sunday’s game will be a dress rehearsal for the semi-finals of the Croky Cup, because Union and Antwerp will also meet there. “Or is that the worst possible draw? No, not at all: it is a very nice draw against a very strong opponent. We have added two top posters”, concludes Geraerts.

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