KAA Gent will be in action against MŠK Žilina in the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round and star forward Gift Orban has a burden of expectation on his shoulders.
Nigeria national football team fans and fans of the Buffalos expect nothing less than the 21-year-old starting alongside top scorer Hugo Cuypers in Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s starting XI against the Slovakian side.
This will be Orban’s first official game of the 2023/24 season as the Belgian Jupiler Pro League begins on July 30, three days after the game against Žilina. The qualifying match is set for 7 PM WAT.
🔵⚪️ 𝗠𝗔𝗧𝗖𝗛𝗗𝗔𝗬 🔵⚪️
— KAA Gent (@KAAGent) July 27, 2023
Gent v Žilina preview: Orban to start, hosts expected to win at home
The 20,000-seater Ghelamco Stadium will host the first leg on Thursday and Gift Orban will be relishing the opportunity to give the Gent fans a wonderful welcome in their first official game of the season.
Vanhaezebrouck will pair the Super Eagles’ prospect with Cuypers, who has become the perfect partner for Orban in the last six months. They have not played much together in the last few weeks due to the peculiarities of pre-season but in the heat of an official game, they are bound to rekindle their connection.
Gent have also enjoyed a good run in their friendlies and will not be resting on their oars against an opponent that is inferior to them. Žilina, meanwhile, will come into the game on the back of a 4-2 aggregate win from the first qualifying round which helped them set up the tie against Gift Orban and co.
There is no history between both teams to pull data from for prediction purposes, which makes it an open match. Gent can also take solace in the fact that the Slovakian club have been poor on the road. Three of their last ten away matches have ended in wins and three have ended in losses.
— KAA Gent (@KAAGent) July 26, 2023
In four of those away games, they have conceded an average of two goals. This is the same average that Gent have scored in nine of their last ten matches. A good number of them were scored by Orban.
“We must win” Gent manager charges Orban and teammates ahead of Žilina meeting
Gent manager Vanhaezebrouck has pointed out to his team that they have no choice but to start the season with a win.
A loss puts them at a disadvantage and knocks them out of Europe for the season. The Belgian manager said during the pre-match presser: “It is a must right away, there is no safety net. We have to eliminate three opponents to reach the group stage of the Conference League. And that is definitely a goal.
“Žilina is the youngest team in Europe, with an average age of about 21 years. Tactically they are good, they play with a lot of drive. Anyway, we must above all try to enforce a good starting position.”
Vanhaezebrouck will be counting on Orban to help his team ‘enforce a good starting position’, especially with his future still up in the air. Reports claim that LOSC Lille is still in talks with Gent over Orban’s transfer to the Ligue 1 side, which means the game against Žilina could be his last for the Buffalos.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago