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Royal Antwerp
Belgian Pro League | Gameweek 1
Jul 30, 2023 at 12.30pm UK

1 - 0
Cercle Brugge

Daland (45+1' og.)
FT(HT: 1-0)

Ravych (58'), Francis (72')

Preview: Royal Antwerp vs. Cercle Brugge - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Belgian Pro League clash between Royal Antwerp and Cercle Brugge, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The eagerly awaited Belgian First Division A will get underway this weekend, and Royal Antwerp will be hoping to get their season off to a winning start when they take on Cercle Brugge at Bosuilstadion on Sunday.

The hosts come into this match after winning the Belgian Super Cup against Mechelen 5-4 on penalties, while the visitors suffered a 7-2 loss at the hands of Ligue 1 outfit Lille in a pre-season friendly last weekend.

Match preview

Royal Antwerp's Radja Nainggolan celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on November 25, 2021© Reuters

After finishing the regular season in third place last term, Royal Antwerp brought an end to a 66-year wait as they went unbeaten in the Championship round to lift just their fifth domestic title in history.

Former Belgium international and ex-Tottenham Hotspur defender, Toby Alderweireld, fired an impeccable shot that found the goal in the dying moments against Genk to secure the title for his side on a dramatic final day of the season.

The 2-2 result on the day was enough to edge Genk out of the title by a single point and was an excellent improvement from the fourth-placed finish that they managed the season before.

Mark van Bommel's side recorded 25 wins, eight draws and seven losses in their 40 matches across the season, and while they were the lowest-scoring of the top five sides in the league, their defensive numbers were superb.

In the 34 games in the regular season, Antwerp only conceded 26 goals, which was 10 goals fewer than the next-best defensive record, while after the Championship round, they extended that gap and were 14 goals better off than their closest challengers.

Having won their domestic league, the Belgian Cup, and the Super Cup last weekend, Antwerp will be brimming with confidence for this season opener and will be strongly fancied to get off to a winning start.

While Cercle Brugge did improve from the 10th-placed finish they managed in the 2021-22 season to eighth last term, they would have been hoping for slightly better and will be hoping to pull closer to the top five this season.

The visitors began last season very poorly, managing just one win in their first nine league matches, which put them on the back foot and saw them fighting an uphill battle for the majority of the first half of the season.

Another poor run of five winless matches in February this year ensured that they would not trouble the top sides, though they did end the season well, losing just one of their final eight fixtures while drawing two and winning five.

Their solid form at the end of the season helped them to finish second in the Conference League playoff group, eight points behind Gent and six ahead of Standard de Liege and Westerlo.

Cercle Brugge lost two of their three preseason friendlies as well as both of their matches against this opponent last season, and they will likely find it difficult in this one.

Team News

Bjorn Engels (Achilles tendon) and Kobe Corbanie (knee surgery) are still carrying injuries from last season and are likely to remain sidelined for a little while longer.

Backup keeper Ortwin De Wolf is also a doubt, but Jurgen Ekklenkamp has overcome his knee injury and featured in the Super Cup tie against Mechelen, and should make the starting 11 here as well.

Kevin Denkey scored both goals for Cercle Bruggle against Lille last week and should lead the line alongside Yann Gboho and Ayase Ueda.

Christiaan Ravych, Boris Popovic and Jesper Daland should make up the defensive trio, with Hannes van der Bruggen and Edgaras Utkus providing the cover in midfield.

Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
Butez; Bataille, Alderweireld, De Laet, Avila; Vermeeren, Abdullahi, Kerk, Ondrejka, Muja; Balikwisha

Cercle Brugge possible starting lineup:
Warleson; Ravych, Popovic, Daland; Decostere, Van der Bruggen, Utkus, Somers; Ueda, Denkey, Gboho

SM words green background

We say: Royal Antwerp 2-1 Cercle Brugge

Antwerp were excellent in the closing stages of last season and have already secured their first piece of silverware for the season, winning the Super Cup last week. They are unbeaten against this opponent in their last five encounters, and we fancy they will extend that record with another win in this one.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a home win 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.Home Win:data

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Game History

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Group A

Q Germany Germany22006
2 Switzerland Switzerland21104
3 Scotland flag Scotland20111
4 Hungary Hungary20020

Group B

Q Spain Spain22006
2 Italy Italy21013
3 Albania national flag Albania20111
4 Croatia Croatia20111

Group C

1 England flag England21104
2 Denmark Denmark20202
3 Slovenia Slovenia20202
4 Serbia Serbia20111

Group D

1 Netherlands Netherlands21104
2 France France21104
3 Austria Austria21013
4 Poland Poland20020

Group E

1 Romania Romania21013
2 Belgium Belgium21013
3 Slovakia Slovakia21013
4 Ukraine Ukraine21013

Group F

Q Portugal Portugal22006
2 Turkey Turkey21013
3 Czech Republic Czech Republic20111
4 Georgia Georgia20111

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