On Wednesday evening, Felice Mazzu was awarded the trophy for trainer of the year at the Golden Shoe gala. The 55-year-old coach didn’t have much time to celebrate, because his Union will kick off the new year on Saturday with a duel between the PhD students in Seraing. 2021 was already a great success for Union and Mazzu: will 2022 be even more beautiful?
The match against Seraing is on paper the easiest of what Union will be presented with in the coming matches. The program of Union after Seraing: Genk (home), Club Brugge (away), Anderlecht (home), Antwerp (away). That is very sturdy. But Mazzu feels no pressure to keep the three points at home against Seraing in view of that difficult program. “There is a lot of talk in the media about our tough program, but I know that my team can play good matches and that we can win against everyone,” Mazzu is confident. “I don’t think that far ahead yet. We know that after Seraing we will play against the best teams in the league, but we also know that they have to play in the top four, while we don’t feel any pressure. I don’t want to think about it too much. First there is the game against Seraing, then we can look further.”
Seraing may be penultimate in the standings, but the people of Liège are certainly not a cat to tackle without gloves. The first leg in the Duden Park also proved that: Seraing led 0-2 at half time and was up with one man more, but Union turned the situation around completely. “We have to keep the previous game in mind,” said a vigilant Mazzu. “It’s important to remember that in some way Seraing will want to get revenge for that game. They will be extra motivated. Moreover, we are not allowed to look at the standings. I’ve said it a lot: we have to respect every opponent. Seraing is indeed in an unpleasant position at the moment, but there is enough quality in their roster. Due to various circumstances it will be a very difficult match. The ranking is absolutely of no importance.”
No corona cases, but an injured one
A windfall for Union: there are no more infections within the team, after Herbots and Sorinola tested negative. But that’s no coincidence. “We’ve had pretty strict measures for two years now. When showering and during meals, for example, we pay very close attention, and we also regularly take tests. We try to convince the players to stay in a safe environment. We can’t control everything, but all our players have already been vaccinated at least three times. That is extremely important, even if they can still get infected. But we try to do everything we can to not let the virus get into our team,” concludes Mazzu.
The success coach still had bad news: Mitoma is not ready to play for the game against Seraing after he sprained his ankle in the practice game against Cercle. Sorinola and Herbots will also not be in the selection yet. For the rest, Mazzu can count on all his players, including newcomers Koki Machida and Kacper Kozlowski.