Wigan Athletic’s first match in their Europa League campaign commences on September 19th, with a trip to Belgium to play Zulte Waregem.
SV Zulte Waregem lie in second place in the Belgian Pro League, currently known through its sponsor’s name as the Jupiler League. They are unbeaten in the first six league games, beating Anderlecht 4-3 at home this afternoon. In a stormy game Anderlecht had two men sent off compared with one for the home team for whom Thorgan Hazard – brother of Eden – was on the score sheet.
Last season Waregem finished in second place behind Anderlecht in the Jupiler League play-offs. That put them into the third qualifying round of this season’s UEFA Champions League but they were to be defeated by PSV Eindhoven of Holland.
Waregem is a Flemmish-speaking town about 40 miles west of Brussels. Its population is around 36,000.
The original club from the town, TSV Waregem, was founded in 1925. Their major achievements were to win the Belgian Cup in 1974 and to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1985-86. In 1996 they were relegated to the second division, falling down into the third division in 1999.
In 2001 financial problems led to the Waregem club merging with Zultse VV, from the neighbouring town of Zulte. The new club was to be called Sportvereniging Zulte Waregem.
The new club was soon to climb up the leagues, winning promotion to the first tier in 2004-05.
Zulte Waregem play their home league matches at the Regenboog Stadium, the home of their predecessors TSV. It has a capacity of 10,200. However, the ground is not up to UEFA standards and they have played their recent Champions League and Europa League games at Anderlecht’s ground, the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels. Their home kit is all red.
Zulte Waregem come to the group stages of the Europa League following their exit from the Champions League. In the third qualifying round of the Europa League they made resolute performances against APOEL of Nicosia. A gutsy display gave them a somewhat fortunate 2-1 away win in the first leg in Cyprus. A tight 1-1 home draw was then enough to see the Belgian team through to the group stage.
Although Zulte Waregem are not well known at international level they will be hard to beat They have prior experience in Europe and are excelling in the Belgian Pro League.
It will be a demanding opening game for Latics in their first European campaign.