September 12, 2017
Zulte, the view from Waregem
How to paint a simple picture of the Gym's first opponent in the Europa League 2017/2018? How to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, their style? Specialist journalist from the Het Laatste Nieuws, who follows the performances of the most recent winner of the Coupe de Belgique and KAA Gent on a daily basis, Jonas Van de Veire picked up the phone to dissect the Aiglons' first opponent. Theme by theme, with precision.
"In Belgium, Zulte are really known for their football and their style, attacking yet fresh at the same time. The coach, Francky Dury, has a strong link to this team for over 20 years. His ideas are clear, recognisable. The 4-3-3 is his preferred set-up. The have already played with 3 at back in the play-offs, but it was more an experience than anything else..."
"They are good on the ball. The squad is mainly made up of youngsters who work hard and are very technical. There are no real stars and so they rely on their work as a team. This season, there are nonetheless some good players, like Peter Olayinka, a young Nigerian strikes who is 21 years old who comes from La Gantoise. Behind that, Timothy Derijck (30 years old, former PSV, Utrecht and La Haye) brings experience and stability. In the middle, Julien De Sart (22 years old), who came from Middlesbrough, is very strong; and in front Onur Kaya (31 years old) is still important because of the quality of his strike and his experience."
"The disadvantage of youth, of course, is that there is a lack of maturity and experience. For many, Thursday's match will be their first in Europe. In the two most recent league games, they have conceded goals from dead ball situations and maybe they lack physicality in the middle. You could see that this summer, for example, when they played a friendly against Amiens and lost 0-3 conceding because of the power of the opponent."
"Zulte finished 3rd in the regular phase and 6th in the play offs. But the problem, is that the Coupe de Belgique is played in March, so the players knew that they had already qualified for the group stages of the Europa League. The motivation suffered a bit at the end. The club has played in the competition twice in its history. The first time, it was still the UEFA Cup, (after having won the Coupe de Belgique in 2006, Zulte were knocked out of the cup by Newcastle in the round of 16, Editor's note). They also played in it in 2013/14, (finishing 3rd in their group behind Rubin Kazan and Maribor). It was a team with Thorgan Hazard (currently with Gladbach) and Junior Malanda (Wolfsburg), the most talented team the club has ever had..."
The Gym seen from Belgium
"It will be a big challenge, because the players have never met an opponent at this level. Everybody saw the performance at the weekend against Monaco (4-0), so we are worried a bit (laughs). Zulte played against Courtrai on Saturday and were not good (2-2), made lots of mistakes at the back. The players said at the end of the game that if they play like that on Thursday, they are going to concede 5, which isn't nothing. But the thing that's sure is that they will go out there with huge motivation."
Van de Veire was speaking to C.D.
Visuals: Official Twitter of Zulte Waregem