PREVIEW: ANDERLECHT - LOKEREN
The season in Belgium kicks off this weekend as Anderlecht begins their title defense against Lokeren in Pro League action.
Having captured the Belgian Super Cup last weekend against Genk and gone 6-1-1 in the pre-season (a loss to Hamburg and a tie with Metz), Sacha Kljestan and les Mauves will get things underway on Sunday afternoon.
Missing out on the Gold Cup, the Californian had a full pre-season with the team and will automatically be slotted into his midfield position. Lucas Biglia, the team's captain from last year, who also made 204 appearances during his Anderlecht career, was sold to Lazio over the summer. Luka Milivojevic will be his long-term replacement; however the Serbian is not expected to be ready for the opener as he finalizes his transfer from Red Star Belgrade.
Ronald Vargas just underwent another operation on his knee, so the often injured striker from Venezuela is expected to be out of action until mid-November. Since his arrival in 2011, the 26 year old has only featured 15 times for the team.
The Belgian club has been prolific in the transfer market but mostly transferring players out of Brussels. Those who will be sorely missed along with Biglia are Belgian international Denis Odoi (Lokeren), Dieumerci Mbokani (Dinamo Kiev) and former Liverpool man Milan Jovanovic (Partizan Belgrade).
Sporting Lokeren played eight pre-season games and won six of those as they prepared for Sunday's opener.
The Flemish side made a few purchases of their own in the off-season with Anderlecht's Odoi being one of the bigger ones. They've also brought in front man Djordje Despotović from Spartak Subotica of the Serbian league.
The Tricolores finished in fifth place last season so will look to move up the standings as every team gets a fresh start this weekend.