What was the feeling like around KAA Gent after last week’s 1-0 victory for them?
Kristof: “It was really a sense of pride. Spurs are still considered as a big team and everyone in Belgium really looks up to teams from the Premier League because we have so many players there so it was like Gent did something special by beating Spurs. It got lots of coverage in the Belgian media and now all the papers are talking about Wembley because it’s something mythical for Belgians – not a lot of Belgian teams have played there. Everyone is talking about it and I think they will have at least 7,000, maybe 8,000 fans travelling over.”
Do you expect Gent to be well-supported at Wembley then?
Kristof: “Yes. Some will take the train but there are some who will take the ferry from Calais at six o’clock in the morning on Thursday for a big celebration! It’s really the old-fashioned way of travelling to England – there is no longer a ferry that runs from Oostende but it’s only an hour-and-a-half by road to Calais so they’ll probably travel from there to Dover.”
How did Gent perform in the 1-1 draw with Standard Liege (pictured, below) on Sunday?
Kristof: “They didn’t reach the level they got to against Spurs. They had to win that game but they drew – they were not bad but not good either. They’ve been inconsistent in the league and that was proven again, but they lost against a relegation candidate before the first leg so it won’t say anything about what they’re going to do against Spurs again this week.”
How do you think they’ll line up this time?
Kristof: “I wonder if they’re going to play three at the back again. I saw the Spurs manager had to change his system at half-time in the first leg which is a compliment for the Gent boss because the plans didn’t work. Obviously the pitch is a bit wider but it’s not a huge difference so we’ll see how they cope with that. In the Belgian league, apart from a few games, Gent are always the favourites so they have to play and the other team can play the counter-attack. Now they can play the counter-attack because they’re not the favourites – Spurs have to do it so they can just wait and throw themselves into the counter-attack.”
Do you get the feeling that Gent are confident of going through now?
Kristof: “Not really super-confident but they’re coming without any pressure. They don’t have to win this game – they’re just going to enjoy it and enjoy Wembley. Most of the players have only played in front of a maximum of 30,000 or 40,000 spectators in a stadium so with more than double that number at Wembley, I don’t think anyone has to motivate them. They’ll go out there without pressure, they’ll just want to enjoy the moment and it’s a beautiful occasion for the club, too, as it’s their 100th European game so it’s a nice way to celebrate that.”
What’s been said in the Gent camp ahead of Thursday’s match?
Kristof: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime match for them. The manager said in his press conference on Sunday that everyone is talking about the game, although they know that they’re still struggling in the league and that a win against Royal Excel Mouscron at the weekend is particularly vital, otherwise they won’t play in Europe next season. The manager was also saying that he’s been to Wembley as a pundit before and that he’s really looking forward to coaching at such a wonderful stadium. I saw the quotes from the Gent players after last week’s game as well and they were very happy. The guy who marked Mousa Dembele, Brecht Dejaegere (pictured, above), was very honoured that he could play against a wonderful player like Dembele and he was very proud that Gent won.”