Belgium will be hoping for a positive start to their UEFA Nations League campaign when they lock horns with Denmark on Saturday.
Following a long layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic, the international football resumed this week with the start of the new edition of the UEFA Nations League. Belgium, for one, are among the tournament favourites and it could be important that they kickstart their campaign on the right path this weekend.
The Red Devils have been drawn in a tough group, however, alongside the likes of England, Denmark and Iceland. So registering a win on Saturday, when they lock horns with Denmark at the Telia Parken in Copenhagen, could be imperative for Roberto Martinez’s men.
At the same time, however, the hosts are no slouch, boasting arguably the third strongest side in the group. Not to mention, they have had a strong campaign in the European Qualifier’s, clinching second place behind Switzerland and remaining unbeaten in their eight games.
As a matter of fact, Denmark are unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions and Kasper Hjulmand’s side will be hoping to extend that record when they host Belgium. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this exciting match-up in Copenhagen.
Team News & Tactics
Hjulmand will be blessed with a strong squad heading into this game. There are some guaranteed starters in the side including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
With Denmark likely to play with a 4-2-3-1, it will be a different choice at centre-back. But coach Hjulmand is likely to opt for the in-form Simon Kjaer and Zanka, ahead of Andreas Christensen and Jannik Vestergaard.
Hendrik Dalsgaard may get the nod ahead of Joakim Maehle at right-back but the absence of Jens Stryger-Larsen should see Robert Skov start on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Hjulmand will be fortunate to have two hard-working individuals in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney. The latter, however, has played very little football, of late, meaning we could see Rasmus Falk or Christian Norgaard feature as a substitute.
Denmark have a lot of options in attack, including RB Leipzig’s vice-captain Yussuf Poulsen. He should lead the attack, with the creative trio of Jacob Bruun-Larsen, Christian Eriksen and Martin Braithwaite looking to provide the necessary supply-line in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Dalsgaard, Kjaer, Zanka, Skov; Hojbjerg, Delaney; Bruun-Larsen, Eriksen, Braithwaite; Poulsen
Much like Denmark, Belgium are also likely to come up with the strongest possible lineup in an attempt to kickstart their UEFA Nations League campaign on a winning note.
However, there might be one telling change in central defence with Jason Denayer replacing Jan Vertonghen at the heart of the four-man backline, alongside Toby Alderweireld. Timothy Castagne and Thomas Meunier may occupy the full-back slots as expected and the four will look to cover Thibaut Courtois in goal.
Leander Dendoncker was one of Premier League’s rising stars and he should be a guaranteed starter in the double-pivot, alongside the ever-reliable Axel Witsel. The duo will get the nod ahead of Dennis Praet and Youri Tielemans.
Witsel, in particular, might come up against his Borussia Dortmund midfield partner Delaney and it will be interesting to see who wins this battle on Saturday.
And finally, in the attack, Martinez may opt for the Hazard brothers to operate in the wider attacking roles. They are expected to provide the pace and dynamism going forward while the masterful passing of Kevin De Bruyne in the number ten role should provide enough creative firepower for the main striker – Romelu Lukaku.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Meunier, Alderweireld, Denayer, Castagne; Dendoncker, Witsel; T Hazard, De Bruyne, E Hazard; Lukaku
- Denmark’s record in 13 meetings with Belgium is W6 D3 L4. The two teams last met in 2000, drawing 2-2 in a friendly game in Copenhagen.
- Belgium are without a victory in five matches in Denmark (D1 L4) since the 2-1 EURO preliminary round win in Copenhagen in May 1971.
- The Danes are unbeaten in fifteen games and have lost just one of their previous twenty-four matches. The goal conceded to Ireland ended a streak of five consecutive clean sheets.
- The previous four fixtures between these two sides had four or more goals on the trot.
Player to Watch
As Denmark hope to secure a shock win over Belgium this weekend, Christian Eriksen will undoubtedly be their most important player in this fixture.
The Dane has the quality as well as the experience to breach the Belgian backline, consisting of his former Spurs teammate, Toby Alderweireld. His craft, composure and assurance in the build-up play will play a key role, with the hosts likely to play on the counter.
On a more important note, Eriksen has a point to prove as well, following a disappointing start to his Inter Milan career. He is, in fact, tipped to leave Italy as part of a major squad overhaul. So, a couple of strong performances during the international break should bode well for the ex-Ajax sensation.
Denmark 0-2 Belgium
This is going to be an interesting game, where speed and athleticism are going to be main components between these two hard-working teams. However, Belgium undoubtedly have greater quality in their team and with nearly all of their attackers in red hot form, it is hard for Denmark to avoid a defeat. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for the Red Devils.