Belgium will aim to bounce back from the loss to the Netherlands when they host Poland in Brussels in a UEFA Nation League A Group 4 clash on Wednesday.

Matchday 2 of the 2022/23 UEFA Nations League will see Belgium and Poland face off at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Wednesday night after their surprisingly contrasting starts in the competition.

The hosts slipped off the top spot in the FIFA rankings two months ago and followed it up with a dismal home defeat at the hands of the Netherlands last time out. As if being merely beaten by their long-standing football rivals was not enough, Belgium got thumped as they conceded four goals, netting just one in reply.

The Red Devils now have an enormous task to top the group ahead of the Netherlands, but the defeat to the Oranje was also a reality check that several members of their golden generation are either past their prime or woefully out of shape or form.

Belgium really were not at the races in their opening fixture, and the ease with which the Netherlands handled superstars like Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard will be quite alarming for Roberto Martinez with the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the horizon in less than six-months.

The Belgium head coach will want to see a reaction from his players when they welcome Poland to Brussels as they look to get back on track at the first available opportunity. Poland, on the other hand, got their UEFA Nations League campaign off to a perfect start as they impressively came from behind to seal a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Wales.

Poland’s performance at UEFA Euro 2020 last summer did not go as planned, as they crashed out by finishing bottom of a tough group containing Sweden, Spain, and Slovakia. However, their preparations for the World Cup appear to be well underway, as seen by their stunning recent form, including a 10-game winning run. In what could well be Robert Lewandowski’s final World Cup, Poland have a good chance to deliver the goods in Qatar.

The last time these two sides met was in 2007 when Poland won 2-0 convincingly. However, Belgium have improved vastly since then and will be looking to return to winning ways here. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Belgium

Romelu Lukaku suffered an ankle injury in Belgium’s loss to the Netherlands and is unlikely to feature here. Belgium’s all-time leading scorer has been ruled out of the remaining June fixtures, joining Thibaut Courtois and Jason Denayer on the sidelines.

After the humiliating setback last time out, Roberto Martinez may make a number of changes to his side. Among those who might start are Youri Tielemans, Leander Dendoncker, Leandro Trossard, and Dries Mertens.

Martinez will set his team up in the typical 3-4-2-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Guarding the former Liverpool custodian will be the centre-back trio of Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata and Jan Vertonghen, who will look for redemption after being exposed very badly by the Netherlands’ buzzing attack last time out.

As for the midfield unit, Tielemans and Dendoncker ought to replace Hans Vanakan and Axel Witsel in the double-pivot following a disastrous showing last time out. Out wide, Thomas Meunier should retain his right wing-back spot, and Yannick Carrasco can also come back into the fold down the left flank as the wing-back duo looks to offer additional width high up the pitch while marauding forwards.

Kevin De Bruyne’s remarkable playmaking abilities will likely play a significant role in this showdown. One can expect him to fizz teasing balls into the box and split defensive lines in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, Leandro Trossard will act as almost a second striker behind Dries Mertens.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mignolet; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Boyata; Meunier, Tielemans, Dendoncker, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Trossard; Mertens

Poland

Unlike his counterpart in the Belgium dugout, manager Czeslaw Michniewicz has no fresh injury concerns from their late win against a depleted Wales side and will have a fully fit roster at his disposal to pick his starting XI from. But given the short turnaround between games coming up, slight rotation can be expected for the Belgium clash.

Karol Swiderski should get the nod to partner Robert Lewandowski in attack after his late winning heroics off the bench, with Poland likely to be lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation.

The onus, in this side, will be on the three central midfielders, namely Grzegorz Krychowiak, Nicola Zalewski, and Mateusz Klich, to keep a lid on Kevin De Bruyne and Youri Tielemans’s creative output. Meanwhile, the creative onus will largely be on the shoulders of Piotr Zielinski, who will slot into the attacking midfielder role and serve as the supplier to the front two.

Bartosz Bereszynski might have to make way for Matty Cash, who, alongside Tymoteusz Puchacz, will hold the responsibility of providing the width as well as having to deal with their respective individual battles at full-back slots.

At the back, Michniewicz will not have too many reasons to tinker with the centre-back pairing of Kamil Glik and Jan Bednarek as they offer experience and command in the box. While Kamil Grabara hopes his strong performance will earn him a starting spot in goal, first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is likely to be back between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cash, Bednarek, Glik, Puchacz; Klich, Krychowiak, Zalewski; Zielinski; Lewandowski, Swiderski

Key Stats

  • Belgium and Poland have clashed against each other on 19 occasions in the past. The visitors surprisingly have the upper hand in head-to-head records, having won 7 games to the Red Devils’ 6 triumphs.
  • Poland comes into this match in fantastic form, having won 13 of their last 18 UEFA Nations League games, including a five-game winning streak lately.
  • The Poles are also on a five-game unbeaten run away from home, winning four of them.
  • Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez’s side are going through a rough patch, having won only two of their last seven competitive games (D2 L3).
  • Robert Lewandowski is Poland’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 75 goals and is only two goals away from matching Pele’s international record of 77, which would propel him into the top ten of all-time international goal scorers.

Player to Watch

Robert Lewandowski

While the Lewandowski-Bayern Munich saga threatens to turn ugly, the Poland captain’s credentials remain imperial for both club and country. The veteran striker is undoubtedly the most fearsome striker in the game at the moment and will be aiming to translate his form in Bavaria to the international stage after firing a blank against Wales last time out.

Lewandowski is heavily counted upon to deliver the goods in the final third, demonstrated by his ten direct goal involvements in his last eight outings. And he could be the key if the visitors are to take anything from the game.

Prediction

Belgium 1-1 Poland

Based on current form, everything points towards a Poland victory against an uninspiring Belgium side. However, it is hard to overlook the superior quality and elite experience Roberto Martinez has at his disposal. The Red Devils are, by far, the better team on paper and hold the advantage if their star players bring their experience to the fore on Wednesday.

However, it all hinges on which Belgium will turn up. The loss of Romelu Lukaku is a significant one, and while the hosts may put on a better display than against the Netherlands in the midweek, Poland should be able to eke out a result.

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