Merveille Goblet (gk) free agent; Stef Peeters (mid) Caen; Aboubakar Kante (mid) Beziers; Loic Badiashile (gk) Monaco – on loan; Giulian Binacone (def) Monaco – on loan; Julien Serrano (def) Monaco – on loan; Jordi Mboula (mid) Monaco – on loan; Kouadio-Yves Dabila (def) Lille – on loan; Rominigue Kouame (mid) Lille – on loan; Guillaume Hubert (gk) Club Brugge – on loan; Idriss Saadi (att) Strasbourg – on loan; Hector Rodas (def) Alcorcon – end of loan;
Benjamin Lambot (r) (def) released; Gianni Bruno (r) (att) released; Issa Marega (r) (def) Chateauroux; Xavier Mercier (k) (mid) OH Leuven; Paul Nardi (r) (gk) Monaco – end of loan; Yoann Etienne (r) (def) Monaco B – end of loan; Adama Traore (r) (mid) Monaco – end of loan; Irvin Cardona (r) (att) Monaco – end of loan; Benjamin Delacourt (sp) (def) Molenbeek; Serge Gakpe (sp) (mid) Apollon Limassol; Kevin Appin (sp) (mid) Monaco B – end of loan; Guevin Tormin (sp) (att) Monaco B – end of loan; Pierre-Daniel Nguinda (def) Monaco B – end of loan; Nabil Alioui (mid) Monaco B – end of loan; Anderson Lopez (att) Monaco B – end of loan;
Cercle had very difficult season from October onwards last term and they survived on their return to the top flight only thanks to the points accumulated in the first 2 months of the campaign.
Logically the dreadful form, particularly past the winter break, saw managerial change and huge revamp of the squad taking place over the summer. French manager Mercadal is the new boss, he coached Caen not very successfully last season, with his first weeks in charge very busy.
As many as 9 regulars from last season left Cercle, including captain Lambot and the team’s most creative playmaker Mercier. To replace the latter the coach signed Peeters from Caen, with the new main inner midfielder of the club well known to the manager as he was coaching him last season.
Also as usual Monaco sent numerous players to their feeder club, with at least 4-5 more Monaco loanees expected to join before the transfer window closes. Saadi was another important player that joined on loan, with the robust centre forward expected to be crucial up front.
Cercle are still short on defensive options, currently only 3 typical centre-backs are in the team, plus apart from Saadi they don’t have another typical target man up front. This could be changed by incoming transfers, but as things stand the squad doesn’t look complete and also based on pre-season tests so far the new boss is yet to settle on formation. Mercadal already used 4 different shapes and he is still experimenting.
Avoiding relegation is the top goal, with Cercle likely to just about achieve this. Top 10 finish seems unlikely though.
David Okereke (att), Spezia), Odilon Kossounou (def), Hammarby), Simon Deli (def), Slavia Prague), Amadou Sagna (att), Eduard Sobol (def), Shakhtar Donetsk - loan)
Club Brugge could not defend their title last season and eventually ended up second best in a tussle with a superb Genk side. It was hardly a bad season as a whole, with good progress made in Europe, but it was not enough to keep Ivan Leko in the job.
The club moved in to bring back the coach of the title winners, Philippe Clement, who was a player with the Black and Blue and also an assistant to Michel Preud'homme a few years ago. It is a powerful move from Brugge and one that certainly makes them title favourites given the squad upheaval at Genk this summer as well.
Brugge did lose some star players of their own but the losses of Wesley and Stefano Denswil do not feel that vital and irreparable to a squad that has some real talent and experience. In fact, keeping hold of the brilliant Hans Vanaken for now can count as the biggest transfer success of the club this summer.
Nigerian David Okereke, who played in Serie B last season and attracted interest from the Premier League, is the main who is to take over the mantle from Wesley and should be the lead striker this season. He is of a similar physical build and it remains to be seen whether he could be as prolific. Simon Deli is a pretty impressive signing with good pedigree as well and should improve the team.
Clement will need some time to get the players comfortable in his 4-3-3 system, after they have played a system with three at the back for the last two seasons, but it should not be much of an issue, and Brugge look geared up for a big push for the title this season.
Brugge will be expecting the top spot given the summer they have had and it is hard to look beyond them.
Andreas Beck (def), Stuttgart), Menno Koch (def), NAC Breda), Jens Cools (mid), Pafos), Flavio Ciampichetti (att), Macara), Jon Bautista (att), Real Sociedad - loan), Carlos Embalo (att), Palermo), Ortwin de Wolf (gk), Lokeren), Romain Matthys (gk), Liege)
Alessio Castro-Montes (r)(def), Gent), Diawandou Diagne (sp)(def), Delhi Dynamos), Rémi Mulumba (sp)(mid), Babacar Niasse (sp)(gk), Luis García (k)(mid), Jordan Lotiès (sp)(def), David Pollet (sp)(att), Charleroi - end of loan), Rocky Bushiri (r)(def), Oostende - end of loan), Samuel Essende (sp)(att), PSG - end of loan), Mamadou Fall (r)(att), Charleroi - end of loan), Cheick Keita (sp)(def), Birmingham - end of loan), Youssef Msakni (sp)(mid), Al Duhlail - end of loan), Eric Ocansey (r)(mid), Kortrijk)
Eupen had a pretty meandering last season in which they pulled off a few decent wins against top teams but also struggled to stay motivated in the second half of the season and barely put in an effort in the play-offs.
Claude Makelele managed to create a good structure but did not show enough commitment to attacking football and was eventually let go by the club at the end of the season. In comes a new manager in Spaniard Benat San Jose, who last worked in UAE, and was previously a youth coach at Real Sociedad.
A few important players have left this summer in the young centre-back Rocky Bushiri, who has been a standout over the last two years, in lively winger Mamadou Fall and full-back Alessio Castro-Montes, who blossomed from a squad player into one of the most consistent performers over the last nine months or so.
In midfield, the team lost inspirational skipper Luis Garcia but retaining on-loan defensive midfielder Suleyman Marreh is a good piece of business. Jens Cools is also part of the squad after returning to Belgium after a spell in Cyprus and he is an assured and dependable player who should be a starter.
There have been some intriguing additions to the squad, it has to be said, in experienced former German international Andreas Beck and the Argentinian veteran forward Flavio Ciampichetti. However, some more additions will be needed for the squad to have a more competitive look and be able to stay clear of danger.
Staying in the places above the drop zone and avoiding being dragged into a battle to stay up.
Alessandro Ciranni (def), Fortuna Sittard), Jonah Osabutey (att), Werder - loan), Sami Allagui (att), Sankt Pauli), Deni Hočko (mid), Famalicao)
Selim Amallah (r)(mid), Standard), Mërgim Vojvoda (r)(def), Standard), Georgios Galitsios (sp)(def), Anorthosis), Christophe Diedhiou (sp)(def), Sochaux), Mbaye Leye (r)(att), retired), Sidney Friede (sp)(mid), Hertha - end of loan), Manuel Benson (r)(mid), Genk - end of loan), Taiwo Awoniyi (r)(att), Liverpool - end of loan)
Mouscron had a pretty mixed and at times strange season last year as they developed nicely after a dire start and had a phenomenal run of form early in 2019 before fizzling out quite badly by the end.
Bernd Strock declined the chance to stay on as a manager and another German in Bernd Hollerbach, who was a Hamburg SV manager back in the day, takes over from this season on.
It is another summer of major changes in the squad as a few important players on loan returned to their clubs and some other integral squad members departed as well.
Mouscron at least managed to bring back Marko Bakic on a permanent deal from Braga and he will look to develop further after a very good season.
Yet the squad looks pretty light in numbers and it remains to be seen how the new-look attack will shape up with Sami Allagui and the young Jonah Osabutey.
Overall, there are still too many question marks regarding the actual level of this Mouscron team and it remains to be seen whether they are capable of the heights from last season with a new coach on board.
Beating the drop is the natural aim for a team with limited resources and constant turnover.
Mikael Lustig (def) Celtic; Milad Mohammadi (def) Akhmat Grozny; Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui (def) Slavia Prague; Jan van den Bergh (def) Beerschot; Alessio Castro-Montes (def) Eupen; Reuben Yem (def) AS Trencin; Elisha Owusu (mid) Lyon; Yuya Kubo (att) Nurnberg – end of loan; Mamadou Sylla (att) Sint-Truiden – end of loan; Franko Andrijasevic (mid) Waasland-Beveren – end of loan; Louis Verstraete (mid) Waasland-Beveren – end of loan; Aboubakar Koita (mid) Kortrijk – end of loan; Tesfaldet Tekie (mid) Ostersunds – end of loan; Lucas Schoofs (mid) NAC Breda – end of loan; Ahmed Mostafa (mid) Smouha (EGY) – end of loan; Deiver Machado (def) Atletico Nacional – end of loan;
Alexander Sorloth (r) (att) Crystal Palace – end of loan; Birger Verstraete (sp) (mid) Koln; Renato Neto (sp) (mid) Oostende; Thibault De Smet (sp) (def) Sint-Truiden; Anthony Swolfs (gk) Telstar; Siebe Horemans (def) Excelsior – loan made permanent; Lior Inbrum (mid) Hapoel Tel Aviv – on loan; Anderson Arroyo (def) Liverpool U23 – end of loan; Aboubakar Koita (mid) Waasland-Beveren – on loan;
After difficult last season and disappointment of losing the Belgian Cup final Gent will be hungry to do much more in what will be first full campaign in charge for coach Thorup, who started reshaping the squad since his arrival in the winter.
This summer the manager already added to the ranks 2 high profile full-backs, which suggests that the defensive efficiency will be much better. Both Lustig and Mohammadi arrive with the promise to be starting many games.
Thorup also welcomed back many players from loans and at least some of them are likely to stay at the club. Kubo is one of those expected to be given another chance in Gent colours, with the Japanese forward very effective in his first season in Belgium 2 years ago.
Crucial inner midfielder Odjidja-Ofoe was made the new captain of the team, with his role vital for the balance of play. Gent use mixture between 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 formations, with both these shapes emphasising on the attacks down the flanks.
Yaremchuk has committed his future to the club this summer and he should be key figure down the left side of the attack, while on the other flank all of Kubo, Dompe and Limbombe are viable options.
After having breakthrough season last term 19-year-old striker David is expected to be even better this campaign, with the young Canadian tipped to be one of the highest goalscorers in Belgium if the delivery from the flanks is good enough.
Gent’s goal is top 3 finish, with the Buffalos certainly good enough to secure another top 6 finish even if they miss out on the medals.
Eric Ocansey (att) Eupen; Vladimir Kovacevic (def) Sheriff – end of loan; Nihad Mujakic (def) FK Sarajevo – end of loan; Mohammad Naderi (def) Persepolis – end of loan; Abdul Ajagun (mid) Omonia Nikosia – end of loan; Herve Kage (mid) Adana Demirspor – end of loan; Ilombe Mboyo (att) Al-Raed – end of loan;
Bennard Kumordzi (r) (def) released; Felipe Avenatti (r) (att) Bologna – end of loan; Joel Pereira (sp) (gk) Man United – end of loan; Charilaos Charisis (sp) (mid) PAOK – end of loan; Aboubakar Koita (sp) (mid) KAA Gent – end of loan; Mejon Hoxha (mid) released;
Kortrijk had difficult last season that saw them changing managers halfway, but positive end to the campaign brought lots of reasons for optimism.
Coach Vanderhaeghe is keeping his cool on the transfer market so far and only recently Kortrijk signed their first new player. That said Mboyo’s return from loan is expected to see him re-establish himself as the main striker of the team, with the partnership Mboyo-Chevalier working very well for Kortrijk in recent times.
Kumordzi’s departure and the fact that the top goalscorer from last season Avenatti didn’t stay past his loan spell are the 2 main concerns for the squad so far. Even without them Kortrijk have strong starting XI though, with the main issue being that the depth is not great.
Vanderhaeghe is likely to be mixing 4-2-3-1 with 4-4-2, with latter preferred for home matches and when Kortrijk trail. Stojanovic finished last season well and he could become important figure in the number ten role, especially with the likes of De Sart, Rolland and Van der Bruggen operating behind him and freeing him of any defensive duties.
Lack of wingers might see Chevalier used more and more in a wide role, he started numerous games last season as right winger, which if Mboyo stays put won’t be an issue as the latter is the outright target man anyway.
Rougeaux hopes to have comeback season after spending most of last year out injured, with his versatility allowing him to play both in the heart of the defence and at right-back.
Experienced manager and strong starting XI suggest that Kortrijk could be contenders for top 6 finish.
Ahmed El Messaoudi (mid), Fortuna Sittard - return from loan), Sheldon Bateau (def), Sarpsborg)
German Mera (r)(def), Junior), Tim Matthys (sp)(mid), retired), Seth De Witte (sp)(mid)
Mechelen managed to complete an instant return to the top-flight after a dramatic win over Beerschot-Wilrijk in a play-off clash back in March, a deserved reward for playing some superb football over the year and maintaining their quality.
But they pulled off an even bigger triumph in the Belgian Cup where they secured a shock 2:1 win against Gent and lifted the trophy.
Yet, all this success has been clouded by constant shadow of match-fixing allegations, with the threat of being denied an entry into the top-division very real. However, the Red and Yellow eventually got their place confirmed just two weeks before the start of the season and can plan ahead with more confidence.
That has had a negative impact on recruitment as Wouter Vrancken has so far been unable to really strengthen the squad from last season. Thankfully for him, not too many departures have taken place too and the squad remains intact.
However, new additions are definitely needed if Mechelen are to steer clear of danger as the depth at the moment is insufficient and the team lacks a bit of cutting edge in attack.
On the other hand, Mechelen can start the season with real momentum and feel-good factor after such a strong last season and a settled starting 11.
Staying in mid-table and clear of the bottom places
Andrew Hjulsager (mid), Celta), Ari Skúlason (def), Lokeren), Renato Neto (mid), Gent), Ronald Vargas (mid), Newcastle Jets), Ante Palaversa (mid), Manchester City - loan), Yaya Sané (def), Emmanuel Banda (sp), Beziers - return from loan)
Aristote Nkaka (sp)(mid), Anderlecht), Sander Coopman (sp)(mid), Antwerp), Amin Nouri (sp)(def), Valerenga - end of loan), Tom de Sutter (r)(att), Knokke), Bojan Nastic (sp)(def), Genk - loan), Laurens De Bock (r)(def), Leeds - end of loan), Jordi Vanlerberghe (r)(mid), Club Brugge - end of loan)
Oostende are looking to make amends after a truly disappointing and demoralising last season left them scratching for inspiration and hope.
They changed the approach by getting a foreign manager with an impressive CV in Norwegian Kåre Ingebrigtsen, who was a serial title winner in Norway with Rosenborg before being sacked last summer, and also went for a few more high-profile signings.
The Kustboys now have a much broader squad and in it shine the likes of Ronald Vargas and Renato Neto, players who have undoubted quality and experience in this league. Yet, they come with the downside of being injury plagued and these sort of move certainly carry some risk for the club.
Yaya Sane is also a good signing in defence, where the veteran Nicolas Lombaerts is still around despite the desire to ship him away, while Ari Skulason is a very good full-back to have as well despite he got relegated last season with Lokeren.
One area that has not been improved so far this summer is the attack, where Fashion Sakala and Sindrit Guri remain the main options. None of them proved too reliable or prolific and it remains to be seen if another body can be brought in to make the team more competitive.
Oostende will look with some hope towards the top six after an encouraging transfer period but realistically they should be looking for a place between seventh and tenth after flirting with the bottom places last season.
Top half of the table and even possibly the top six.
Theo Bongonda (mid) Zulte Waregem; Carlos Guesta (def) Atletico Nacional; Benjamin Nygren (att) Gothenburg; Stephen Odey (att) Zurich; Ianis Hagi (mid) Viitorul; Patrik Hrosovsky (mid) Viktoria Plzen; Bojan Nastic (def) Oostende – end of loan; Amine Khammas (def) Den Bosch – end of loan; Dante Vanzeir (mid) Beerschot – end of loan; Manuel Benson (mid) Mouscron – end of loan; Gaetan Coucke (gk) Lommel – end of loan;
Leandro Trossard (k) (att) Brighton; Ruslan Malinovsky (k) (mid) Atalanta; Joseph Aidoo (r) (def) Celta Vigo; Marcus Ingvartsen (att) Union Berlin; Ibrahima Seck (sp) (mid) Zulte Waregem – loan made permanent; Jakub Brabec (def) Viktoria Plzen – loan made permanent; Rubin Seigers (mid) Lommel – on loan;
Genk were the outright champions last season, by far best team in Belgium throughout the campaign, but as expected title-winning manager Clement was convinced by a richer club to join them, plus 2 key players in Trossard and Malinovksy moved on in the summer. Added to that the March departure of Pozuelo and the recent selling of the best defender Aidoo and Genk’s squad doesn’t look as exciting as it was last term.
The Blues appointed in charge experienced Felice Mazzu, has been overachieving with Charleroi for several years now, but on all his good credentials he is yet to win anything major in his managerial career.
To fill the voids Mazzu got busy and at least 4 of the newly signed players are expected to become regular starters. Guesta comes from Colombia to bring stability to the defence, Hrosovsky and Hagi are promising inner midfielders that could eventual be playing key roles, while Nygren and Bongonda are explosive wingers that bring hope that the emblematic aggressive play down the flanks from last season will remain feature of the displays this year too.
Genk are expected to be challenged by the fact that they have guaranteed place in the Champions League group stage, with those expected to be the most important games as long as the team stays in the competition. This is likely to see rotation used domestically and at least during the regular season Genk might be giving regular rest to some of their stars in league fixtures.
Genk will struggle to defend their title, with the team likely to find it even hard to claim top 3 finish.
Junior Pius (def), Pacos Ferreira), Ritchie De Laet (def), Aston Villa), Martin Hongla (mid), Granada), Alexis De Sart (mid), Sint Truden), Sander Coopman (mid), Oostende)
David Simão (sp)(mid), AEK Athens), William Acheampong (sp)(att), Ajman), Jelle Van Damme (r)(def), Lokeren), Omar Govea (sp)(mid), Porto - end of loan)
Antwerp played a really good season last year and stayed competitive all the way until the end, clinching a deserved spot in Europe after being part of the top three for most of the campaign, mixing some good attacking football with defensive assurance and determination.
The Good Old will be looking for further progress this season and will even dream of putting themselves in among the top sides in a tussle for the big trophy. That may sound a bit too ambitious but the fact that the squad is pretty much intact compared to last season is very much a bonus.
The likes of Diemruci Mbokani, Faris Haroun and Sinan Bolat will be looking to keep up the performance levels from last season, when they were the bedrock of the team. Richie de Last is the main new signing and he is a pretty good player for the Jupiler League to have as a full-back option.
The main issue going to the season seems to be the lack of depth in a couple of areas, especially in attack, where Mbokani has little alternative. It remains to be seen also whether Junior Pius, one of the new signings, is ready to have impact early on after the departure of veteran Jelle van Damme.
As a whole, Antwerp have the look of a side that is ready to compete at the top end of the table and in Laszlo Boloni they have a very experienced and wily coach who knows the team well and how to get the most out of it.
Will look to get into Europe again and if things click early on they could become a dark horse in the race for the top.
Landry Dimata (att) Wolfsburg – loan made permanent; Michel Vlap (mid) Heerenveen; Aristote Nkaka (mid) Oostende; Samir Nasri (mid) West Ham; Vincent Kompany (def) Manchester City; Philippe Sandler (def) Manchester City – on loan; Davy Roef (gk) Waasland-Beveren – end of loan; Josue Sa (def) Kasimpasa – end of loan; Knowledge Musona (mid) Lokeren – end of loan; Alexandru Chipciu (mid) Sparta Prague – end of loan; Dauda Mohammed (att) Vitesse – end of loan; Isaac Thelin (att) Bayer Leverkusen – end of loan;
Yannick Bolasie (r) (mid) Everton – end of loan; Ivan Obradovic (r) (def) Legia Warsaw; Leander Dendocnker (r) (mid) Wolverhampton – loan made permanent; Ryota Morioka (sp) (mid) Charleroi – loan made permanent; Silvere Ganvoula (att) Bochum – loan made permanent; Dennis Appiah (sp) (def) Nantes; Boy De Jong (gk) Stellenbosch; Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui (gk) Charleroi; Ognjen Vranjes (sp) (def) AEK Athens – on loan; Hannes Delcroix (def) RKC Waalwijk – on loan; Aristote Nkaka (mid) Almeria – on loan;
After their worst season in more than a decade Anderlecht expectedly pressed the reset button and this was summer of improvement and positive changes for the most successful Belgium team.
The Board managed to convince Man City’s U21 long serving manager Simon Davies to take charge, with his assistant being Belgium legend Vincent Kompany, who will also be playing captain on the pitch. Another defender from Man City already joined, with the strong links between the two clubs allowing future moves to be possible too.
Those were not the only positive moves Anderlecht made on the transfer market, with vastly experienced Samir Nasri and highly rated Michel Vlap 2 new faces expected to bring edge to the forward actions. Also the impressive before his injury last season Dimata made his stay at the club permanent and he will be one to watch in attack.
The arrival of several high profile veterans and the rich pool of talented youngsters already at the club, plus the fact that the new boss is prolific at developing young players, suggest that Anderlecht’s structure and organisation on the pitch this season will be much better.
With the arrivals of Kompany and Sandler the defence looks rock solid and well covered for any eventuality. Kums and Trebel remain main figures in the heart of the midfield, while the forward actions promise to be much more effective with Dimata fit again, plus Nasri and Vlap operating behind him.
The main weakness remain the full-back positions, but the manager is working hard to add new players in those areas before the end of August, with Anderlecht expected to complete at least 2-3 more incoming transfers this summer.
Big advantage will be the fact that the entire attention of the players will be concentrated on the domestic stage, no European football to think about.
Winning the title is the primary goal, with squad good enough to feel confident of securing top 3 finish no matter what.
Ryota Morioka (mid) Anderlecht – loan made permanent; Victor Osimhen (att) Wolfsburg – loan made permanent; Modou Diagne (def) Nancy; Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui (gk) Anderlecht; Parfait Mandanda (gk) Dinamo Bucharest – end of loan; Omid Noorafkan (mid) Esteghlal (IRN) – end of loan; Mamadou Fall (mid) Eupen – end of loan; Romain Grange (mid) Grenoble – end of loan; Enes Saglik (mid) Tubize – end of loan; David Pollet (att) Eupen – end of loan; Chris Bedia (att) Zulte Waregem – end of loan;
Nicolas Penneteau (r) (gk) end of career; Gabriele Angella (r) (def) Udinese - end of loan; Francisco Martos (r) (def) Andorra FC; Dorian Dervite (def) Doxa; Valentin Baume (gk) Molenbeek – on loan; Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui (gk) F91 Dudelange – on loan; Nathan Rodes (mid) Titus Petange – on loan; Arnold Garita (att) Boulogne – on loan;
After 6 years under Mazzu Charleroi embark on new era after the departure of their much loved manager. Belhocine steadied Anderlecht in the play-offs last season and this landed him the job, but he is relatively inexperienced manager which suggests that Charleroi’s ambitions are not very high.
Important business this summer were the moves on loanees Morioka and Osimhen, with both now permanently at the club and both destined to be key figures up front.
The squad was weakened defensively though with the long-serving goalkeeper Penneteau retiring and captain Martos moving back in his homeland. Another important centre-back Angella refused to extend his stay at the club, which means that 3 of the nailed on starters at the back from last season are no longer there.
Newly signed Diagne is a move to build new back line, with Riou doing well on goal last season when he played and now likely to be the main choice between the posts.
In terms of depth Charleroi have plenty of players available for most of the roles on the pitch, but keeping everyone happy will be challenging task and Belhocine might consider offloading significant number of players on loan late in the transfer window.
The new boss is unlikely to change the working for many years now 4-2-3-1 formation, with 18-year-old Iranian Delfi one to watch as the season progresses. He most likely won’t be starting much early on, but the fact that scouts from Barcelona, Milan and Atletico Madrid travelled to watch him recently shows how much promise he has. Delfi could establish as regular starter as the season progresses, just as last season’s top goalscorer Osimhen did from October onwards.
Will want to finish in top 6 and make Play-off I, but this can happen only if at least 3-4 main players have outstanding seasons at the same time. More likely to finish nearer 10th spot.
Yuma Suzuki (att) Kashima Antlers; Daniel Schmidt (gk) Vegalta Sendai; Thibault De Smet (def) KAA Gent; Mathieu Troonbeeckx (mid) KSK Heist; Allan Sousa (att) Vejle – on loan; Cong Phuong Nguyen (att) HAGL (VIE) – on loan; Duckens Nazon (att) St Mirren – end of loan;
Takehiro Tomiyasu (r) (def) Bologna; Daichi Kamada (k) (mid) Eintracht Frankfurt – end of loan; Alexis De Sart (r) (mid) Antwerp; Takahiro Sekine (sp) (mid) Ingolstadt – end of loan; Mamadou Sylla (sp) (att) KAA Gent – end of loan; Cristian Ceballos (sp) (att) released; Lucas Pirard (sp) (gk) Waasland-Beveren; Fabien Antunes (def) Westerlo; Rai Vloet (mid) released;
The Canaries dramatically missed out on Play-off I on the last day of the regular season last March and then they lost the Play-off II final even more dramatically, making a season of good displays ending in bitter disappointment.
The good form shown last term didn’t go unnoticed either with centre-back Tomiyasu sold for big money in Italy, while Frankfurt recalled the Player of the Season Kamada to their ranks.
Sint-Truiden’s Japanese ownership continues to bring good players for relatively little investment though and recently signed striker Suzuki is tipped by many pundits to take Belgium by storm. His movement inside the penalty area and ability to score goals with either foot already gives reason for Sint-Truiden’s fans to get excited.
Coach Brys is expected to use mainly 3-5-2 formation, although he could also go for 4-2-3-1 in certain games with recently signed De Smet able to play very well both as part of back 3 and back 4.
More players are likely to join the team soon, currently Sint-Truiden are short on inner midfielders, but as things stand Endo is set to become regular starter in the heart of the midfield. His ability to protect the defence, he also regularly plays as part of a back 3 for Japan’s national team, should allow the wide players to roam forward often. This as it was proven in 2 consecutive seasons makes Sint-Truiden very hard to play against when they are hosts and on the front foot.
Sint-Truiden are determined to secure top 6 finish and after what happened to them last season the Canaries will be working really hard for this goal. They have the talent to achieve it too.
Felipe Avenatti (att), Bologna), Nicolas Gavory (def), Utrecht), Aleksandar Boljevic (att), Waasland-Beveren), Selim Amallah (mid), Mouscron), Mërgim Vojvoda (def), Mouscron), Anthony Limbombe (mid), Nantes - loan), Vanja Milinković-Savić (gk), Torino - loan), Darío Castro (att), Santa Fe - loan)
Standard Liege had a somewhat frustrating last season in which they at times hinted about their potential but never really stayed consistent enough to trouble the top two. They needed a bit of luck to eventually book a spot directly into Europa League and overall it felt that they somewhat underachieved.
Now the pressure is very much on club icon Michel Preud'homme to deliver more success in his second season since taking over as a coach. He lost his best player in Razvan Marin but the club also allowed him to spend some serious money on reinforcements.
Signing Zinho Venhuesden on permanent deal is a major investment but he did show massive progress last season and should blossom even more. Anthony Limbombe looks like a good signing as well, having played really well at Club Brugge a few years ago, while Felipe Avenatti brings competition for places in attack after a strong season at Kortrijk last year.
The lack of real midfield presence apart from Gijko Cimirot, with no replacement for Marin signed yet, is a concern for the team and the defence looks somewhat light as well. That said, few teams can rival the quality and flexibility that the squad possesses right now.
Will be aiming to ruffle the feathers of the top teams and battle for the title for a first time in ages but it feels like too much of a stretch.
SV Zulte Waregem
Luka Zarandia (mid), Arka Gdynia), Cameron Humphreys (def), Manchester City), Cyle Larin (att), Besiktas - loan), Omar Govea (mid), Porto), Dimitri Oberlin (att), Basel - att), Nikolaos Kenourgios (def), Sparti)
Theo Bongonda (k)(mid), Genk), Hamdi Harbaoui (k)(att), Al Arabi), Hicham Faik (sp)(mid), Heerenveen), Thomas Buffel (r)(mid), retired), Kingsley Madu (sp)(def), Stef Peeters (r)(mid), Caen - end of loan), Chris Bedia (sp)(att), Charleroi - end of loan)
Zulte Waregem will be seeking to repair the damage of a truly awful last season in which they never found any rhythm and struggled in the play-offs as well.
Francky Dury, the longest-serving manager in the league, is going for a reset this season in the hope of assembling a slightly more competitive and coherent side after the shambles of last year. For that matter, the two most consistent quality players in Theo Bongonda and Hamdi Habraoui were shipped away for decent fees.
On the other hand, Essevee managed to bring in some talented attacking players in Dmitri Oberlin and Cyle Larin, both on loan, and they will have the opportunity to showcase their qualities and hopefully make the Waregem team better as a whole.
The other additions look less exciting for now and it remains to be seen how the team will fare over the course of a long season with a midfield based around the brawn and muscle of Ibrahima Seck and little else around him.
The defence is the one area where there has been little change but the team shipped too many goals last season and there could well be an addition or two there before the end of August.
For now, Zulte Waregem remain very much a squad in transition and Dury knows well that more is needed in terms of additions to have a satisfying campaign and avoid the embarrassments of last season, especially the series of defeats against local rivals Kortrijk.
Will settle for playing good attacking football and gravitating in mid-table.
Brent Gabriel (gk) Club Brugge; Lucas Pirard (gk) Sint-Truiden; Xian Emmers (mid) Inter – on loan; Aboubakar Koita (mid) KAA Gent – on loan; Daan Heymans (mid) Lommel – end of loan;
Davy Roef (r) (gk) Anderlecht – end of loan; Louis Verstraete (r) (mid) KAA Gent – end of loan; Franko Andrijasevic (r) (mid) KAA Gent – end of loan; Nana Opoku Ampomah (r) (mid) Fortuna Dusseldorf; Aleksandar Boljevic (r) (att) Standard Liege; Oscar Threlkeld (def) Salford; Senne van Dooren (def) Hoogstraten; Anthony Swolfs (gk) KAA Gent – end of loan; Apostolos Vellios (att) Nottingham Forest – end of loan;
Waasland-Beveren had another difficult year last season, with the lack of wins somehow not being punished and the Lions doing just about enough to survive.
After taking charge in the winter Custovic improved the displays, but as usual come the summer he had to part ways with many of the important players. With 5 regulars from last season gone the Lions are really stripped at the minute.
The poor financial situation means that the most likely way to strengthen the squad will be via loans. Custovic works on bringing to the team at least 4 more players and only when the transfer window shuts Waasland will have better idea what their team will look like.
Young left winger Koita comes with the promise to be regular starter and after 2 years of sporadic football this could be his breakthrough season. He has the talent, but will he be able to realise it is yet to be seen.
Emmers is another interesting young player that comes on loan, with the Inter graduate set to be key figure in midfield, especially if no other reinforcements arrive for that area of the pitch.
Dierckx is third very talented young player that had the bad luck to miss the entire last season injured. He is now fit and if the winger’s form is good he could emerge as one to watch for the Lions.
Milosevic and Forte will compete for the right to lead the attack, with both of them having their pros and cons.
Main worry is the fact that the poorest defence from last season is yet to be strengthened in any way.
Survival will be hard if more players are not signed before the end of August. No matter what another season of endless struggle seems inevitable.