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UEFA qualifiers: Belgium vs Russia Preview

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BELGIUM and Russia will be looking to return to winning ways when they lock horns at Stade Roi Baudouin in their opening UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier. The match will be hosted in Belgium as exactly 8:45 pm local time today.

2018 was a year to remember as their “golden generation” delivered some returns on their promise by finishing third at the FIFA World Cup, although the year ended in disappointment. Their final tie of the year saw the Red Devils being handed a 5-2 defeat by Switzerland, which meant they missed the chance to make it to the UEFA Nations League finals.

Russia too, had a year to remember, as they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup against all odds, beating Spain along the way. But, back-to-back defeats to Germany and Sweden have sapped all their momentum, and Stanislav Cherchesov will now be eager to prove that his team’s exploits in Russia 2018 were not a one-off.

The last fixture between Belgium and Russia was a pulsating encounter that ended in a 3-3 draw, with the Sbornaya coming back from two goals down to ensure the stalemate. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Belgium

Roberto Martinez has seen his usual squad ravaged by injuries and other issues ahead of the latest international break. While Marouane Fellaini has called time on his career with the Belgium national side, a number of other regulars have missed out due to fitness concerns.

These players include Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Mousa Dembele, Axel Witsel and Kevin de Bruyne. In addition to the aforementioned quartet, Adnan Januzaj and Romelu Lukaku are also set to be ruled out, having initially been picked by Martinez for the upcoming two games.

In Kompany’s absence, Dedryck Boyata is likely to deputise in the back-three, with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen being his partners. The three-man defensive line should continue providing cover to Thibaut Courtois, who will hope for some good times with Belgium amid a season to forget with Real Madrid.

The midfield ought to see a much changed look, thanks to the absence of Witsel and Meunier. While Nacer Chadli should move to the right flank to cover for Meunier’s absence, the in-form Leander Dendoncker should fill Witsel’s void, with Youri Tielemans being the creative supremo in midfield in the absence of de Bruyne.

 

The left wing-back is likely to be Thorgan Hazard, who will be looking to combine with brother Eden on the left flank. The rest of the front trio should be completed by Michy Batshuayi and Dries Mertens, with the former having a great chance to cement his place in the side.

Russia

Stanislav Cherchesov has had to rebuild his squad quite heavily in the aftermath of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with several key players retiring. Additionally, the Russia boss also seems to be phasing out a number of players aged over 30, with the latest being Roman Neustadter.

With Roman Zobnin also missing out in the latest squad, a largely new look Russian side should take the field, compared to the one that turned up at the World Cup. The changes have begun right from goal, with Igor Akinfeev retiring after the World Cup; Andrey Lunyov has replaced him between the sticks.

Mario Fernandes is one of the old regulars still continuing in the side. The 28-year-old should be the right-back, with Fyodor Kudryashov lining up on the opposite flank. At the heart of the defence, Georgi Dzhikiya will likely be partnered by Andrey Semenov, who will be Neustadter’s replacement.

In midfield, Zobnin ought to be replaced by Magomed Ozdoyev, while Yury Gazinsky is now one of the pillars of the Russia National Side. Aleksandr Golovin is now fully fit and should return to his spot in the hole, from where he will hope to pull the strings for the visitors.

Aleksei Ionov has made the right wing spot his own in recent fixtures and should continue in the side. On the opposite wing, however, Denis Cheryshev should line up, with Artem Dzyuba leading the line for Russia, although Fyodor Chalov will hope to make his international debut after being handed his first call-up by Cherchesov.

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