Union Saint-Gilloise Injury Blow Ahead of European Clash

Union Saint-Gilloise are currently chasing their first Pro League title since 1935, and seeking to reach the quarter-finals of a European competition for the second time in the space of 12 months.

Last season, the Belgian side beat German opposition in the last 16, Union Berlin, after facing them in the group stages. This season, the task is bigger – they face Eintracht Frankfurt in the knockout qualification round, 2022 Europa League winners, with the first leg not held at their 9,400-capacity Joseph Marien Stadium but instead shifted to Anderlecht.

They do so without a couple of key players. Noah Sadiki, the 19-year-old former Anderlecht man recently capped at Under 21 level by Congo, is suspended, having picked up a booking in the 2-1 victory against Liverpool before Christmas.

He’s joined on the absentee list by Ecuador international Kevin Rodriguez. The 23-year-old, a capture from Independiente in September, misses out with a knee injury. He’s been used mainly as a sub in his short stay in Belgium, but often to great effect – he scored a last-minute winner against St. Truiden in January, which has helped his side to a five-point lead at the top of the table.

“Frankfurt is perhaps the strongest team we could have faced in this round,” said head coach Alexander Blessin. “But for my players, Frankfurt is a perfect challenge. If we have a good day tomorrow, we might make them a bit nervous. We are fighting a whole season to play in Europe, hence why we want to give everything in this tie.”

Les Unionistes were once the biggest club in Belgium, winning multiple titles up until 1935, but they suffered a sharp decline, dropping into the lower reaches of Belgian football. They dropped out of the top flight in 1973, and by the end of the seventies, they were in the fourth tier.

Much of that has changed since the arrival of Brighton owner Tony Bloom. He invested in the team in 2018, and that has seen them explode back onto the scene. They only missed out on the Pro League title on the final day of last season, and this time out, they’re opening an impressive gap at the summit.

Site Opinion

Beating Liverpool in the group stages raised eyebrows because the team feels, to modern observers, like a new kid on the block. They’re certainly minnows in many respects – their ground can’t host big matches, but it feels like they’re on their way back.

Victory tonight would certainly lay down a marker for the rest of Europe. Finishing third in their Europa League group was tough to take – a 3-0 defeat to bottom side LASK scuppered their chances, and they certainly struggle away from home – they’ve won one of their last six European matches on the road but lost just two of the last ten.

They need a big result tonight to give them something to defend next Thursday in Germany.

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