Russia will be looking for redemption of the matchday 1 defeat when they will host group leaders, Belgium at the Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg on Friday

The Matchday 9 in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers will see the top two teams from Group I, Belgium and Russia go head to head against each other. Both the sides are well and truly qualified for the European Championships next year and it will mostly be a battle of pride.

Russia are in a great run of form off late and apart from their only defeat against Belgium in the reverse fixture they hold a perfect record in this group. So Stanislav Cherchesov’s men will have their shot at redemption when they host Belgium at the St. Peterburg Stadium on Saturday.

Belgium, on the other hand, are yet to taste defeat in the qualifiers and have been dominant against their Group I opponents. The Red Devils have scored staggering 30 goals and have conceded only once in the reverse fixture. They have at least scored twice in each of their qualifiers, which speaks volumes about the mayhem Roberto Martinez’s men have managed to cause.

The reverse fixture between both the sides ended in a 3-1 win for Belgium on Matchday 1 with Eden Hazard netting a brace and Youri Tielemans also getting in the scoresheet. Denis Cheryshev scored the solitary goal for the Sbornaya with Aleksandr Golovin getting sent off late in the game.

Team News and Tactics

Russia

Stanislav Cherchesov has got some injury concerns ahead of this tough fixture against Belgium, as players like Alan Dzagoev,  Yury Gazinsky and Fyodor Smolov are ruled out of this fixture. Key midfielder Denis Cheryshev’s availability remains a big doubt for Cherchesov.

Aleksei Miranchuk returns to the national team but his brother Aton is still sidelined while Cherchesov has named a few uncapped players like Maksim Belyaev, Dmitri Chistyakov, Daniil Fomin and Rifat Zhemaletdinov in his 26-man squad for the last two matches.

Lokomotiv Moscow custodian Guilherme Marinato is set to start between the sticks with Andrei Semyonov and Georgi Dzhikiya slotting in the heart of the defence. while Mario Fernandes and Fyodor Kudryashov will take up the full-back positions.

In midfield Zenit’s Magomed Ozdoyev and Spartak Moscow’s Roman Zobnin are ought to play in a double pivot with the responsibility of breaking up play and supporting their backline. Aleksandr Golovin is likely to start behind Artem Dzyuba, who is in tremendous form in national colours scoring nine goals in eight games and he will be the main man for Cherchesov upfront.

Aleksei Miranchuk will return to the starting eleven and may operate from the left flank with the experienced Aleksei Ionov slotting on the right. Both wingers will look to create chances in the final third and will use Dzyuba’s physical presence in the penalty area.

Ilzat Akhmetov will start from the bench but the 21-year old winger can be an impact substitution later in the game. Denis Cheryshev is doubtful for the fixture and even if he makes the final cut he will start the game from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Guilherme; Fernandes, Semyonov, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov; Ozdoyev, Zobnin; Ionov Golovin, Aleksei Miranchuk; Dzyuba.

Russia

Belgium

Like his counterpart, Roberto Martinez has a pretty healthy squad ahead of this fixture, with some niggles and knocks here and there. Vincent Kompany and Thomas Meunier are doubtful for this match, with Thomas Vermaelen and Timothy Castagne primed to take their place in the starting eleven.

Martinez is again set to line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation and Thibaut Courtois is set to keep his place under the bar while Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen are likely to be the back three for Belgium. Timothy Castagne and Thorgan Hazard take up the wingback roles with the latter being more attacking.

In the middle Axel Witsel is set to anchor the play and initiate buildups while Youri Tielemans will slot beside him adding more steel to the overall setup. Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne will play in advanced positions with freedom to dictate terms in the final third and create chances for Romelu Lukaku who will lead the lines for the Red Devils.

Belgium have a very deep squad and therefore Martinez is at times spoilt for choices. Players like Dries Mertens, Michy Batshuayi, Leandro Dendoncker are very talented players and on their day they can turn things around all by themselves.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Castagne, Witsel, Tielemans, T. Hazard; De Bruyne, E. Hazard; Lukaku

Belgium

Key Stats

1. Both the teams have met in total six times and Russia have not won against Belgium ever in their footballing history, only registering two draws with the latest one coming in 2017.

2. Belgium have at least scored two goals in each and every game of the qualifiers until now and have also won each of the games by a margin of two or more.

3. Ever since the defeat against Belgium, Russia are on a seven-match winning streak and in this time they have only conceded once. They have also won the last six home matches without conceding a single goal.

4. The Red Devils have won  14 of their last 15 qualifiers, suffering just one defeat, a 1-0 defeat in Wales in 2015. Since the defeat, Belgium have recorded 12 straight victories.

Player to Watch

Artem Dzyuba

Artem Dzyuba has been a livewire for Russia in the qualifiers. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Artem Dzyuba has been a livewire for Russia in the qualifiers. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Whenever the Sbornaya needed goals Chercheshov looked at the lanky Zenit forward and he delivered.  Dzyuba is in red hot form for club and country and having already scored nine goals from eight games in the qualifiers it is evident that his presence in the final third can cause havoc for any opposition.

His imposing figure and ability to reach to right areas in the box makes him a lethal weapon for Sbornaya.

Dzyuba is also an aerial threat and apart from scoring goals his ability to hold up play and add more dynamism through the wingers make him their main man in the attacking third, therefore, registering five assists. If Cherchesov’s men are looking for redemption then it is mostly on Dzyuba to break the resolute Belgian defence.

Prediction

Russia 1-2 Belgium

Both the sides have already qualified for European Championships next year but this match is like a matter of pride for both manager. Russia as hosts will look to win the match as it will be a huge morale boost and will also end their 2019 calendar on a positive note.

Similarly, Roberto Martinez’s men have been dominant for the last few years in the international circuit and their aim will also be to end the year on a high. Considering the quality in both ranks Denis Cheryshev’s availability will be a big factor for Russia as the Red Devils look a notch ahead. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Belgium, cementing the top spot in Group I.

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