Roberto Martinez will be looking to take control of Group I, as Belgium aim to win the second game of their qualifying group with a trip to Cyprus.
Cyprus are currently leading Group I after handing a heavy 5-0 defeat to San Marino in their opening game of the qualifying round. The island nation are, thus holding a superior goal difference over Belgium who only won 3-1 against Russia. But, playing against the Red Devils will be a test of different level, one they must be wary of.
Cyprus did meet Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, wherein they endured 3-0 and 4-0 losses and stood no chance against their more illustrious opponents. Cyprus have always struggled in the face of strong opposition, but after their recent performances at the UEFA Nations League, where they beat Slovenia and drew to Bulgaria, they can take some confidence going into this qualification campaign.
Their visitors, Belgium are currently one of Europe’s in-form sides and showed their superiority in their opening Group I game with a win over Russia. The headlines from that game was grabbed by Thibaut Courtois, whose blunder gifted Russia a goal, although Belgium’s attack was no match to the 2018 World Cup hosts.
Belgium know that a win over Cyprus will give them some much-needed dominance before the next set of qualification games kick in. A win would take them to 6 points in the group, and provide them with a lead over the current leaders. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The home team do not have many problems heading into the clash against Belgium. The home side will be missing Pieros Sotiriou, who scored two penalties in Cyprus’ 5-0 win over San Marino will not feature. The player was taken off injured, thus making him a significant doubt. Other than that, Cyprus are expected to name an unchanged lineup.
The injured Sotiriou will likely be replaced by Nestoras Mytidis in the starting lineup. The home team will go with their usual formation of 4-2-3-1, with the hope of containing the high-flying Belgian side.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Panagi; Demetriou, Merkis, Laifis, Ioannou; Artymatas, Efrem; Papoulis, Kastanos, Avraam; Mitidis
Roberto Martinez has a few problems in the way of injuries to crucial players in his squad, meaning, the manager will not be able to play his full strength squad. The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Kevin de Bruyne, Axel Witsel and Vincent Kompany are all ruled out of these qualification rounds.
Despite those injuries, Belgium have the required firepower. The big news from their game against Russia was the blunder caused by goalkeeper Courtois, although the Real Madrid custodian is likely to keep his place in goal. Other than that, Martinez is expected to retain every member of the starting lineup that triumphed against Russia.
However, in case Martinez decides to rotate his lineup for Cyprus, he has many options from his squad. The likes of Nacer Chadli, Thomas Vermaelen and Yannick Carrasco could all benefit from the rotation, although they could be outstanding options from the bench. The manager is likely to stick with a three-man defence and three up front.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard; Mertens, Batshuayi, Eden Hazard
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 11 of Cyprus’s last 13 games in the European Championships Qualifiers.
- Belgium have won 8 of their last 10 matches in the European Championships Qualifiers.
- Belgium have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 matches against Cyprus in all competitions.
- Belgium have won their last 4 matches against Cyprus in all competitions.
- Cyprus have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 matches.
Player to Watch
Eden Hazard was on the scoresheet twice, but that is something expected of the Chelsea attacker. The real shining light in this Belgian side though, is the emerging Youri Tielemans. The Leicester City star made sure he took his chance well when afforded and ensured Belgium did not miss more influential stars in their win over Russia.
Tielemans is set to be selected again in the Belgium side to face Cyprus, and he needs to show Roberto Martinez that he could become a regular option for the national team rather than just a backup. The young midfielder has been putting up some good performances, and one more against Cyprus will go a long way in determining his future with the national side.
Cyprus 0-4 Belgium
The Red Devils are overwhelming favourites to take three points off Cyprus. The island nation must have turned heads with their big win over San Marino a few days back, but Belgium are a different gravy when it comes to quality. The Red Devils have more than enough firepower to overcome the Cyprus defence, and their backline is more than capable of keeping a clean sheet against the European minnows as well.
The likes of the Hazard brothers, Youri Tielemans and Michy Batshuayi will have a field day as they will be looking to take their team on top of Group I and ensure they place emphasis on this group. Cyprus are not expected to mount a considerable challenge against Belgium, but the Red Devils will ensure they score many goals, possibly even more than what we have predicted for this clash.