Zulte Waregem coach Mbaye Leye lives between hope and fear: “Genk will be very focused”

“I’d like to play against Mechelen, preferably out first”, Mbaye Leye said on Friday morning around 11:30 am. The coach of Zulte Waregem was almost fully served half an hour later. “It is a pity that we have to play at home first, but it is a good draw. Balanced too. In this way, at least one supposedly smaller club will advance to the final. Hopefully we can realize that stunt.”

Essevee is clearly under the spell of cup fever, but in the meantime Leye is anxious to ensure that the focus of his players is not disturbed. The relegation battle is still raging and with duels visiting Genk and Anderlecht, his team is in for a very tough week: “At the beginning of the season we already had a very tough calendar. It doesn’t get any easier now.”


Yet Leye remains his eternally optimistic self: “We also have to try to collect points in these competitions. At four out of nine, we are not doing so badly at the moment. Now we also have to try against the bigger teams. Genk and Anderlecht, is of course not easy. However, the weeks of truth follow in February. Our fate will not be decided against Genk or Anderlecht, but in direct duels with our competitors.”

The tone has been set. Leye indeed keeps his team sharp because there should be no slackening. Otherwise, the early relaunch is doomed to fail: “Building in regularity is now the most important thing for us”, says Leye, who continues to hammer on a few key words. “You always start from scratch. At Genk you should no longer think of STVV or Malinwa. You play against the real title contender.”

“They now only have the championship and they want to get as many points as possible with a view to the play-offs. Genk will be very focused. After such a cup elimination, they will not have to be motivated. Everyone will be sharp. Wouter Vrancken is one of the best trainers in Belgium. He always brings teams to a higher level. Look at guys like Onuachu, Trésor and Paintsil. It’s not going to be easy for us.”


Training program adapted to busy calendar

Moreover, Zulte Waregem also has to take into account a midweek matchday for the second week in a row. Leye is therefore wary of overload and adjusted his training program: “My players are not used to playing three matches a week. Just like for STVV, we haven’t really been able to train much tactically for Genk. I learned that from the first round. My boys are still getting used to that. We deliberately did not train yesterday but went to the wellness.”

“I am not afraid of a pandering in Genk. We just have to look at the other clubs we have to compete with. It wouldn’t be a shame to lose there. It’s David against Goliath, isn’t it? You just have to fight for your honor. It is suddenly not easier for me to work now, but you do notice that the atmosphere has changed”, said Leye, who now has to make do with a few injured people.

He won’t be able to count on Tambedou (ankle) and Willen (pubalgia) anyway. Even more. An operation is imminent for Tambedou, who is struggling with a stress fracture: “Modou has to visit a specialist to see whether or not he needs surgery. It will take a while anyway. With an operation, it is basically the end of the season for him.”

“That is why we are also looking for the necessary reinforcements,” says Leye very candidly. “We want someone who can strengthen the defence, a right-footed lad with speed who can also help in midfield from time to time. Would like to experience someone. We have already gained experience with Ruud and Christian and you notice that this pays off.”


Leye was able to report better news about Jelle Vossen’s recovery: “Jelle is doing better, things are going faster than hoped. That is good news. Yesterday he trained for the first time with the players who did not play on Wednesday evening. If this weekend comes too early, next Wednesday will work. Willen and Braem also train individually, De Buyser also visited a specialist. Just like Drambaiev. We are still waiting for those results.”

Finally, Leye also came back to the failed transfer of Louis Bostyn, who missed a transfer to Antwerp: “The two clubs have not reached an agreement, but it is now a difficult situation. It is now up to the management to find a solution. He did get a mental blow.”

But Leye also turns out to be a shrewd diplomat in this dossier: “We are now looking at what is possible. Maybe he can stay until the end of the season and compete with Sammy again. Unless he finds a new club of course. Sammy and Louis have each meant a lot to this club, so we have to act in a very balanced way.”

Just as he is also very careful with Ramirez, the Spanish midfielder who seemed on his way to the exit: “Ramirez cannot leave because he has already played in two championships this season. He came to me and assured me that he is ready to help the team. He just has to prove on the field that he is ready and then he will get match minutes. It also pleases him when Ruud and Christian arrive here. Well, my philosophy is still the same, but the team now carries out the assignments better.”


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