MX23RW : Saturday, December 12 09:44:34| >> :600:123116:123116:
Dec 3, 2020 at 5.55pm UK at Bosuilstadion
AntwerpRoyal Antwerp
3-1
LudogoretsLudogorets Razgrad
Hongla (19'), De Laet (72'), Benson (87')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Despodov (53')
Grigore (62'), Nedyalkov (71'), Santana (90+2'), Manu (90+4')
Grigore (90+1')

Preview: Royal Antwerp vs. Ludogorets Razgrad - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Royal Antwerp and Ludogorets Razgrad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Group J leaders Royal Antwerp can wrap up qualification for the Europa League knockout stages when they play host to Ludogorets Razgrad at the Bosuilstadion on Thursday evening.

In contrast, the visitors are already eliminated and there is only pride on the line for Ludogorets when they make the long journey to Belgium.


Match preview

Royal Antwerp head coach Ivan Leko pictured on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Antwerp fans would have never expected to see their side top a group which includes Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur, but the Belgian outfit have earned their right to be there following that memorable victory over Spurs in October.

Ivan Leko's side must face one more daunting clash with Tottenham before the group stage comes to an end - this time in North London - but the result of that game may pale into insignificance should Antwerp seal their spot in the next round on matchday five.

Spurs do boast a better goal difference than Antwerp - who are ahead of the Lilywhites courtesy of head-to-head results - but Antwerp have only shipped two goals in the group stage and will be confident of prevailing against a lowly Ludogorets outfit on their own turf.

Leko's men suffered their only defeat of Group J to LASK Linz just before the international break, but Antwerp gained revenge when they paid a visit to the Linzer Stadion as goals from Pieter Gerkens and Lior Refaelov condemned 10-man LASK to a 2-0 defeat last week.

As far as Antwerp's domestic fortunes are concerned, Leko witnessed his side come out on top in a five-goal thriller with Oud-Heverlee Leuven at the weekend, with Martin Hongla netting a second-half winner after four goals in the opening 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Ludogorets will be glad to see the back of the Europa League after a torrid run in Group J, with the Bulgarian giants still without a point ahead of Thursday's trip to Belgium.

Stanislav Genchev's men were unable to pull off a historic shock at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as they were put to the sword 4-0 by the Premier League leaders last week, and out of the 48 teams in the group stage, only Celtic have also conceded a tournament-high 13 goals.

Ludogorets supporters have become accustomed to a familiar spell of form from their side in the past couple of months - lose in Europe before prevailing domestically - with the Bulgarian outfit managing to win their fourth league game on the bounce at the weekend following their fourth-straight defeat in Group J.

After being thrashed by Spurs, Ludogorets warmed up for this game with a 2-1 triumph over Botev Vratsa, and Genchev's side are two points clear at the top of the rankings in the Bulgarian top flight.

Ludogorets welcomed Antwerp to Razgrad on matchday one of the 2020-21 Europa League, and the Belgian side triumphed 2-1 in that encounter, with Refaelov and Gerkens the heroes once again for this week's hosts.

Royal Antwerp Europa League form: WWLW
Royal Antwerp form (all competitions): LLDDWW

Ludogorets Razgrad Europa League form: WLLLL
Ludogorets Razgrad form (all competitions): LWLWLW


Team News

Royal Antwerp players celebrate Lior Refaelov's goal against Tottenham Hotspur in October 2020© Reuters

Antwerp defender Matheus is still struggling with a calf problem and is unlikely to feature, but the Brazilian would find it difficult to displace any member of Leko's back three anyway.

Faris Haroun is serving a domestic suspension but is available here, with Leko set to stick with the majority of the same starting lineup from Antwerp's victories over LASK and OH Leuven.

However, Lazio loanee Jordan Lukaku has made two substitute appearances in succession and is pushing for a start on the left-hand side over Simen Juklerod.

Meanwhile, Ludogorets have a relatively clean bill of health for their trip to Antwerp, with Wanderson and Higinio Marin the visitors' only injury concerns.

Josue Sa staked his claim for a start in defence with his side's winner at the weekend, while Kiril Despodov and Bernard Tekpetey will do battle for the right-wing spot.

Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
Butez; De Laet, Seck, Batubinsika; Miyoshi, Hongla, Haroun, Lukaku; Refaelov, Gerkens; Benavente

Ludogorets Razgrad possible starting lineup:
Iliev; Ikoko, Sa, Verdon, Nedyalkov; Anicet, Badji, Yankov; Despodov, Keseru, Manu


SM words green background

We say: Royal Antwerp 3-1 Ludogorets Razgrad

Ludogorets have nothing to play for in this game and can afford to throw caution to the wind as they look to make their Europa League venture count for something. However, Antwerp will be determined to book their place in the next round before next week's trip to Tottenham - who are hot on their trail - and the Belgian side should have too much firepower for a winless Ludogorets on their own turf.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data


ID:424551:cQx

Who will win Thursday's Europa League clash between Antwerp and Ludogorets?

Royal Antwerp
73.1%
Draw
18.2%
Ludogorets Razgrad
8.7%
264
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