Antwerp v Tottenham: Bale can make his mark in thriller

Tottenham are on great form on the road, and as Kevin Hatchard explains, they are running into another in-form side in Belgium on Thursday.

Antwerp v Tottenham
Thursday 29 October, 17:55
Live on BT Sport 2

Perfect start for unheralded Belgians

It's been a long time since Royal Antwerp were truly a force in Belgian football. They haven't won the national league title since the 1950s, and have watched the likes of Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liege take centre stage. However, winning the Belgian Cup in August this year was a huge moment for Ivan Leko's team, especially as it arrived against Club Brugge. It's worth remembering that Brugge were runaway winners of the league last term, so to deny them a domestic double was some achievement.

Antwerp have maintained that momentum in the league. They are top of the table, with a highly impressive tally of 20 points from ten matches. Not only that, but they have made a winning start in the Europa League, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Ludogorets. Israeli veteran Lior Refaelov, who scored their winner in the cup final, also netted the decisive goal in Bulgaria.

Antwerp have a quartet of players struggling with injury (Matheus, Aurelio Buta, Sander Coopman and Alexis de Sart) and could name the same line-up that beat Ludogorets.

Amidst the chaos, Tottenham are finding calm

Since a mayhem-laced meltdown against their old London foes West Ham, a game that saw a 3-0 lead become a 3-3 regret, Tottenham have reeled off two wins and two clean sheets. Austrian side LASK were dismissed 3-0 in the Europa League, and then Jose Mourinho's team survived a scare or two against Burnley at Turf Moor before the magic pairing of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son combined for a late winner.

Spurs are two points ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, and they are four ahead of Manchester United, although the Red Devils have a game in hand. A significant investment in the squad has given Mourinho a breadth of options in all departments, and it appears that Daniel Levy has gone against his pragmatic mature by gambling on a return to the Champions League. That golden ticket can be grabbed via the Premier League, but it would also arrive if Spurs could win the Europa League. The Lilywhites are currently the 6.4 favourites to do just that.

With a PL home game against a decent Brighton side on the horizon, it would be a surprise to see Mourinho take too many risks with his team selection here. Gareth Bale may get a chance to start, as he continues to build his fitness, and backup striker Carlos Vinicius gave an encouraging display against LASK. Joe Hart will continue to deputise in goal.

Spurs are rightful favourites, but a bit too short

Given Tottenham's away form and their superior quality as a squad, you can understand why they are favourites here, but I'm not sure I can get excited about them trading at 1.57 to win. Antwerp are playing really well and scoring freely, so I'll look elsewhere for my primary bet.

Hosts to contribute to fun encounter

Antwerp have scored 20 goals in their last seven matches, but they haven't kept a single clean sheet in that spell, so I fancy backing Over 3.5 Goals here at 2.42. That bet has landed in six of Antwerp's last seven games.

Alternatively, you could back a BTTS/Over 2.5 Goals double on the Sportsbook at 1.84.

Bale to finally make his mark?

Gareth Bale is yet to open his account in his second spell as a Spurs player, but against a team that plays in an open and attacking manner, he might get a chance to shine with his pace and direct running. Keep an eye on the team news, and if he starts, back him to score at 5/4.

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