In light of the recent terror attacks in Brussels, the International friendly game between Belgium and Portugal was moved from Brussels to Leiria, Portugal.
With the European league campaign nearing its end, it is not surprising to see a lot of big players missing for their national sides out due to injury or lack of fitness. Nevertheless, the clash between Portugal and Belgium promises to be an exciting contest with Cristiano Ronaldo on one side and Romelu Lukaku on the other.
Belgium, who are currently ranked Number 1 in the World, face a formidable opponent in the form of Portugal with a squad depleted of important players. On the other hand, Portugal are in a similar state with experienced players like Ricardo Carvalho being side-lined and Ronaldo doubtful to play full 90 minutes due to the upcoming ‘El Clasico’. This game, hence, might be a platform for some of the lesser known players to prove themselves worthy of a spot in this year’s Euros.
Tactics and Line-ups
The Portuguese have struggled in their recent fixtures, with only 3 victories out of their last five games played. After a 2-0 victory against Luxembourg and a 1-0 loss to Bulgaria in their most recent game, Fernando Santos, the manager of the Portuguese national team will look to ensure that his players churn out at least a draw against a tough Belgium side on Tuesday.
Santos is most likely going to continue with a 4-4-2 formation in which Nani and Ronaldo will lead the attacking roster. With the Belgian side missing a few key defenders, the Portuguese duo will hope to get on to the score sheet to redeem their horrific display in the previous game against Bulgaria. Renato Sanchez, who made his debut against Bulgaria last week, looked promising and hence will most probably look to start this game in place of 27 year old Adrien Silva. Jao Mario and Rafa Silva will operate on the wings. William Carvalho will be the designated defensive midfielder with the task of protecting the back four and will complete the midfield.
Rui Patricio will start between the sticks, with Pepe and Bruno Alves playing as the central defenders. Wolfsburg’s Veirinha will operate as the right wing back whilst Eliseu will play on the left. This defensive line-up is pretty much the strongest Portugal can put out at the moment to deal with the likes of Lukaku and Mertens.
Predicted Line-up: Patricio; Eliseu, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Veirinha; Jao Mario, Carvalho, Sanchez, Rafa Silva; Nani, Ronaldo.
Marc Wilmots must dig deep to find eleven fit players for the clash against Portugal as many of his star players have dropped out either due to illness or injury. Courtois will surely start in goal ahead of Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet. But in what seems to be a meek defensive line-up, Belgium must make do with Tomas Vermaelen and Nicolas Lombaerts in central defence. Guillaume Gillet will be given the opportunity to play right-back in place of Toby Alderweireld who dropped out due to illness. Jordan Lukaku might make a surprise debut at left back in the absence of Jan Vertonghen.
Playing a 4-3-3 formation, the three midfield players are likely to include Radja Nainggolan who has been excellent for AS Roma this season. Axel Witsel, the potential captain on the night, will feature alongside Steven Defour from Anderlecht. Moussa Dembele, who usually features in central midfield, has been ruled out due to an injury.
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are also set to miss out against Portugal due to injury. Romelu Lukaku’s great form for Everton will most likely ensure him a start as the central striker. Napoli winger Dries Mertens is expected to start alongside Michy Batshuayi from Marseille to complete the attacking trio.
Predicted Line-ups (4-3-3): Courtois; Jordan Lukaku, Lombaerts, Vermaelen, Gillet; Witsel, Nainggolan, Defour; Mertens, Lukaku, Batshuayi.
- Belgium have seven successive wins against national sides in a non-competitive environment.
- Belgium have not beaten Portugal since 1989
Player to Watch
The Belgian striker is having a sensational season in the French top division. With intense competition from Lukaku, Benteke and Divock Origi, Batshuayi must prove himself if he wishes to make the Belgium squad for the upcoming Euros. With blistering pace and a keen eye for goal, the 22 year old frontman from Brussels will look to trouble the Portuguese defence and will surely be exciting to watch.
Portugal 1 – 2 Belgium
Although the two squads are suffering a great deal due to injuries, the number of in form players in the Belgian side will enable them to comfortably beat Portugal. We can expect Portugal to be competitive as long as Ronaldo is on the pitch. But once he is removed, the game will be Belgium’s all the way.