Belgian champions Royal Antwerp make their Champions League entrance against Greece’s AEK Athens with the first leg at the Bosuilstadion on Tuesday night (20:00).
Just three days after pipping Dinamo Zagreb in an absolute thriller, AEK Athens head for Belgium to lock horns with Jupiler League champions Royal Antwerp.
Mark van Bommel’s hosts have lost just once since October at the Bosuilstadion, but face a Greek outfit buzzing at the manner of their success over Dinamo.
Former Aston Villa centre-back Bjorn Engels is a long-term absentee meaning Toby Alderweireld and Ritchie de Laet continue to pair up at the heart of the home rearguard.
Former Spurs striker Vincent Janssen, with four goals in his last two matches is the dangerman up front for the champions of Belgium.
Recent recruit from Elche, Ezequiel Ponce, has not yet been registered by AEK, while Spanish winger Paolo Fernandes remains sidelined.
AEK Athens to win @ 11/5
Emotions may well be running high in the AEK camp following their weekend heroics, but they should still fancy they can establish a first-leg edge in this play-off round tie.
AEK were heading out of the tournament on Saturday, trailing 2-0 against Dinamo Zagreb and 3-2 on aggregate going into injury time of the second leg of their third-round qualifier in Athens.
Substitute Sergio Araujo pulled one back in the second minute of stoppage time and then AEK were dramatically handed a late chance when they were awarded a penalty in the ninth minute of added time.
Incredible Levi Suarez saw his effort saved only for veteran AEK defender – and Dinamo old boy – Domagoj Vida to latch on to the rebound and break his fellow countrymen’s hearts.
They will have had less than three days to recover from that incredible turnaround, but may well be too strong for the Belgians.
Van Bommel’s Belgian champions are an exciting side with experience in key areas, but also a number of supremely gifted youngsters, among them Jacob Ondrejka and Arthur Vermeeren.
Their start to the season has been no better than mixed and it’s worth remembering that AEK beat Antwerp 3-0 in a summer friendly less than a month ago.
Comparing non-competitive games with Champions League tussles is hardly comparing like with like, but this AEK group have demonstrated they will take any challenge in their stride.
Under 2.5 goals @ 10/11
Expect tension to be in the air in Antwerp with a place in the group stage of the Champions League the tantalising prize on offer.
Four of Antwerp’s five matches this season have produced two goals or less, so it would be no surprise if this fixture did not end up a low scorer.
AEK will be in no rush to get going as they recover from their Saturday exertions, but there is no shortage of experienced aces throughout Matias Almeyda’s group to ensure they keep Antwerp at bay.