"We have to be clever over the two legs'"


Up against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, the Mauves face a difficult but unique opportunity to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa Conference League. Ahead of the first leg at the Lotto Park, coach Brian Riemer and goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen took a seat in the press room. 

Islam Slimani and Lior Refaelov, who were struggling with some injuries and were not able to play the full 90 minutes last Sunday, are now fully fit, coach Riemer said. "So now it's up to my tactical decisions if they will start the game or not. Almost everyone in the squad is now fit to start the game, so that's positive for us."

"If the game against Westerlo was a wake-up call? The domestic league and the European tournament are two different things. We have to keep the bigger perspective: we're on an unbeaten spell for a while now and haven't conceded any goals in the last 5 games. For the players, tomorrow's game is definitely something special. The opportunity to play a semi-final is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"We will play our normal game tomorrow, but obiously we know there's a return game as well. Obviously, I would love to win three or four-nil tomorrow, but that won't be the case. I think the games against Villarreal were a good reference in terms of how to play over two legs in a clever way."

Speaking about the performances of Bart Verbruggen, sitting next to him, coach Riemer said: "I'm here for one thing, and that is to give Anderlecht success. That's my main objective. So if the choice was made to put Bart in goal, that's because we are convinced that he can help us do that. This is not youth football, we don't give any gifts or benefits. So it's fully deserved on his side, and of course I have to say that his performances so far are just very, very good. On the other hand, we have to praise our other goalkeepers as well. Hendrik Van Crombrugge has done very well for this club in recent years and Colin Coosemans is helping us everyday to maintain high standards in training as well. And it's not only about individuals, it's mostly about the team spirit that has been very good in recent months."

Over to Bart Verbruggen himself then. "It's nice to hear that the coach and the club are praising me, but I mainly try to listen to the directions he and the staff have for me in training in order  to get better.  I like that. I'll keep working hard, doing my thing and then I hope I can continue to grow. I do greatly appreciate the trust I get from the coach and the club, even in the months before I was in goal. Above all, I am satisfied with the performances of the whole team. I think we've managed to become a team with confidence again. Those five clean sheets: that is not my achievement, but that of the team and the whole club. We are going to try to keep up the performances in the next two weeks."

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