ROYAL Antwerp manager Franky Vercauteren could decide to play without a specialist striker in the first leg of the Europa League last 32 double header against Rangers tomorrow due to injuries and suspension, it was last night claimed.
Vercauteren, the former Belgium winger who took over from Ivan Leko at the Bosuilstadion last month, will be without his first choice centre forward Didier Lamkel Ze against the Premiership leaders.
The Cameroonian is banned because of the red card he received in a group game against Dutch club AZ Alkmaar back in 2019. Elsewhere, Congolese internationalist Dieumerci Mbokani is also unavailable due to a calf strain.
Felipe Avenatti, who played against Rangers twice for Standard Liege in the group stages of the competition last year, could be given the nod in attack for the home team.
UEFA changed their rules three years ago and players are no longer cup tied in European competitions if they have already featured for another club at an earlier stage.
Diederik Geypen, who covers the Belgian Pro League club for Gazet van Antwerpen, thinks that Vercauteren could decide to play with an attacking midfielder in an advanced role in the encounter instead of a forward.
“Lamkel Ze is suspended and Mbokani isn’t fit,” he said. “Guy Mbenza has moved to Lausanne on loan, but he wasn’t in the European squad.
“I don’t know if they are going to play a young guy or if they are going to play without a striker. Maybe they will play with a stronger midfield, with an offensive midfielder, not a striker. That is a possibility.
“Felipe Avenatti, a loan player from Standard Liege, could also play there. Maybe he will start. He is a target man. He played up front against Club Brugge in a cup game this month. But he hasn’t played a lot this season.
“But whoever they play he won’t be as good as Lamkel Ze, who is the best player in the team.”