Antwerp will be at the Fatih Terim Stadium in Istanbul on Thursday evening for its first match in the play-off round of the Conference League against Turkey's Istanbul Basaksehir. The return match follows a week later at the Bosuil.
Well-known names at Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkish President Erdogan's club, include Red Devil Nacer Chadli, former Anderlecht players Lucas Biglia and Stefano Okaka, Ahmed Touba (ex-Club Brugge and -OHL) and former German international Mesut Ozil. However, Chadli is not match fit and is therefore not in the lineup for Thursday. Four other members of the Basaksehir squad play in Turkey's national team.
Basaksehir, who finished fourth in the Turkish Süper Lig last season, eliminated Club Brugge five years ago in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
For its part, Antwerp is the only club in the Belgian championship with maximum points after four match days. The advantage for The Great Old is that the first leg will be played on Thursday evening, even if it is quite a long journey with, once again, the usual delay. However, the Belgian competition leader will be missing Vincent Janssen, suspended, and Michel-Ange Balikwisha, Viktor Fischer and Anthony Valencia, all injured.
“We did not have an ideal preparation, but it is what it is,” coach Mark van Bommel told the Gazet van Antwerpen at a press moment on Wednesday. The club still aims to do everything it can to reach the group stage of a European cup competition for the third consecutive year. “We have our duty to fulfill,” van Bommel said