The top two teams in Group H go head-to-head as Belgium take on Greece in the World Cup Qualifiers on Saturday.
Belgium will be looking to extend their lead at the top of Group H of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers 2018 when they play host to a rejuvenated Greece side at the King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, on Saturday.
The Red Devils are at the summit with 12 points, but could lose out on their place at the top if the Greek outfit manage to claw out a victory. It will be a tough ask, given how good Belgium have been in the qualifying stages.
They have been brutal against the four opponents they have faced, including a phenomenal 4-0 rout of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who appear to be their nearest contenders for top spot.
Despite being in decent form in the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers, Greece have not been in the best of form on the international stage as they were shambolic in the qualifying stages for Euro 2016.
Probable Lineups and Tactics
Belgium head-coach Roberto Martinez will be bereft of the services of wing wizard Eden Hazard. The Chelsea talisman picked up a knock in training for the match against Russia, and has reportedly flown back to London to recuperate. However, on the plus side for Chelsea fans, he should be back in time for their game against Manchester City.
Another key first-team figure set to miss out will be Citizens’ captain Vincent Kompany. The central defender has been a peripheral figure under Pep Guardiola this season due to his woeful fitness record, and will sit out the qualifier against Greece.
However, Martinez could breathe easy on the selection of Radja Nainggolan as the midfielder has recovered from a recent injury, and is expected to be named in the starting eleven, according to Goal.
He missed out on the previous two qualifying matches against Bosnia and Gibraltar, and will be overjoyed to be part of the national setup.
Thibaut Courtois will start in goal with a back four of Thomas Meunier, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen ahead of him. Nainggolan is expected to come straight into the fray and will play in a three alongside Kevin de Bruyne and Mousa Dembele.
Yourri Tielemanns and Marouane Fellaini will be useful additions off the bench should Belgium be looking to defend a lead or grab a late goal.
In the final third, the absence of Hazard, Kevin Mirallas will start on the left flank with Yannich Carrasco on the opposite winger. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku will start as the focal point of the Belgian attack.
Belgium Probable XI: Courtois; Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, De Bruyne, Dembele; Carrasco, Mirallas, Lukaku.
Greece will be without the services of injured Kostas Manolas through injury and Kyriakos Papadopoulos as he is suspended. This will see Giannis Manniatis join Sokratis Papastathpoulous at centre-back.
Andreas Samaris and Alexandros Tziolis will play as a two in midfield with Thanos Petsos playing as a number 10 beyond them. Prolific striker Kostas Mitroglu is expected to lead the line for the Greeks.
Greece Probable XI: Karenzis; Tzavellas, Maniatis, Sokratis, Stafylidis; Samaris, Tziolis; Fortounis, Petsos, Siopis; Mitroglu.
- The two teams have met seven times on the international stage, with Greece slightly edging out the Red Devils. The former have won three occasions, with the latter winning on two occasions. This fixture has seen a draw thrice.
- Belgium go into this game on the back of a fantastic run in qualifying matches. They have won their last eight, and will be looking to make it nine on Greece.
- The Red Devils’ last game was an 8-1 drubbing of Estonia – one of the biggest wings of the World Cup 2018 qualifiers.
- Their star striker Romelu Lukaku is leading the goal-scoring charts in the Premier League, and will look to capitalise on Greece’s defensive frailties.
- Greece have kept a clean sheet in two of their last qualifying matches. (2-0 vs Estonia and Cyprus)
Belgium 2-1 Greece
Both teams have their fare share of injuries, which could see the confidence levels drop in both camps. Greece will be without two key defenders, while Belgium will be missing the services of Hazard. On paper, this game seems an easy one for the Red Devils, but Greece could use their good run of form to their advantage and make it as difficult as they can for the home side. They are expected to lose it eventually, but will not go down without a fight.