Royal Antwerp returns after 66 years

Royal Antwerp returns after 66 years

Royal Antwerp returns in the top-level continental game for the first time in 66 years, as they go against AEK Athens in the Champions League playoff-round tie. These two teams will meet for the first leg of their playoffs, as they are aiming for a chance in the Champions League. Antwerp enter the contest just now in the final qualification, while Athens had a tough time coming into this match. Moreover, this is the first time that Antwerp and Athens met in a competitive match. However, when it comes to the friendlies, they already met for two times already in the friendlies. From those matches, Athens were able to defeat Antwerp, giving them a slight advantage here. The meeting between Antwerp and Athens is on August 23, 2023, at 3:00 AM (GMT+8), as Antwerp host Athens.

Royal Antwerp

Champions League Qualifiers: Royal Antwerp

Antwerp are finally making a return in a European flagship contest after 66 years from their first appearance. However, when it comes to domestic league, Antwerp are actually doing pretty well, especially last season. In fact, they were able to bag the Belgian Pro League title last season, that earned them their qualification here. Moreover, as they open their domestic season, they were able to bag a 1-0 win against Cercle Brugge in late July. However, although they won their opener, their last three league games resulted to mixed results. This puts them at the fifth spot in the standings, which does not really give them an advantage here. Fortunately though, they have experience when it comes to Europe, as they are regulars there. They actually reached the Europa Conference League playoffs last season, which could give them the confidence here.

Vincent Janssen, who leads Antwerp, is a doubt coming into this game, following an apparent injury he sustained on their last game. Additionally, Ortwin De Wolf, and Davino Verhulst will both sit out in this match, due to their injuries as well. Bjorn Engels is also unavailable here, following his Achilles issue.

AEK Athens

Champions League Qualifiers: AEK Athens

Athens had a tougher journey coming into this match, but they were fortunate to reach into this stage. During the third qualifying round, they were able to defeat Dinamo Zagreb, in a 4-3 win, that give them the qualification here. Moreover, when it comes to the Champions League, Athens are the better team, as they were able to qualify during the 2018-19 season. However, when it comes to the Europa League, they do not have the same fortune, failing to qualify in the contest during the 2021-22 season. Moreover, they have yet to open their campaign domestically, which could have given them a momentum here. However, since they were able to play several friendly matches, they are somehow confident coming into this match.

Only Paolo Fernades will be available in this match, as he continues to deal with an Achilles issue that keeps him out. With that, it was Nordin Amrabat, who will cover for his spot, to try to take an advantage here.

Prediction:

Royal Antwerp (1.5)
Odds: -0.83

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