Belgium meet Russia at Krestovsky Stadium in their opening Group B encounter of Euro 2020.
Depending on the result of Denmark’s clash against Finland on Saturday teatime, victory by a better goal margin could send either Belgium or Russia top of Group B.
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Kevin De Bruyne is ruled out for Belgium after being left behind in Tubize, Belgium to continue his recovery from a broken nose bone fracture suffered in Manchester City’s Champions League Final loss.
Axel Witsel will also miss the trip as he continues to recover from an Achilles injury and like De Bruyne, has also been left behind at base in Tubize.
Russia have no fresh injury concerns so will too have all their players in contention to start with their top two goalscorers in Artem Dzyuba and Denis Cheryshev set to definitely start this match.
- Belgium are unbeaten in seven previous meetings against Russia (W5, D2) and won both of their two previous clashes at major tournaments in Group Stage at 2002 and 2014 FIFA World Cup respectively.
- Despite playing as the ‘away’ team in their home venue, Russia are yet to beat Belgium at home (D1, L2).
- Roberto Martinez’s Belgian Red Devils have scored ten goals in their last three meetings against Russia.
- Eight of Belgium’s last 14 goals have been scored before half-time in five matches held in 2021 (W3, D2).
- Russia have kept just one clean sheet in their last five matches in all competitions in 2021.
With both of Belgium’s two experienced midfielders out, I am quite intrigued as to how Roberto Martinez approaches this game tactically whilst maintaining his 3-4-2-1 formation, yet De Bruyne and Witsel’s absence gives Youri Tielemans a huge opportunity to stake his place as a regular.
Russia meanwhile were the surprise of 2018 World Cup and will certainly be an interesting watch in terms of formation, given that they can play a 5-3-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation which could add a further tactical headache for Martinez.
The ex Wigan manager however can take heart in Belgium’s impressive form against the Russian in all competitions, yet De Bruyne’s absence will certainly be felt and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a draw here if Belgium aren’t at their best.
Prediction: Belgium 1-1 Russia