With just two games remaining for England and Belgium, this match holds plenty of importance. Belgium comes into this affair nursing a two-point lead over both England and Denmark. After suffering their lone blemish to England back in early October, they will look to even up the score at home. If the Red Devils win here and Denmark is unable to beat Iceland, the race to make the final four will be finished before matchday six. On the flip side, a series sweep by England could grant them the advantage over Belgium if they finish tied in points, barring what shakes out in these next number of days.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Belgium had no choice but to move their remaining Nations League group games from King Baudouin in Brussels to Den Dreef in Leuven, less than a half-hour away by car. It all kicks off Sunday at 2:45 Eastern Time.
After the loss to England, Belgium would not have a whole lot of time to regroup. Just a handful of days later, they would need to cross the North Atlantic to meetup against group minnow Iceland. Romelu Lukaku would show up in a big way against the Islanders, breaking up the scoring just nine minutes in. Iceland would knot it up just eight minutes later, off a goal by Birkir Mar Saevarsson. However, in the 37th minute, Lukaku would take back the lead for good, burying an awarded penalty kick.
Over the course of Belgium’s four round-robin appearances, they have shown to be quite adept with their afforded opportunities. Keep in mind the Belgians rank second among all Nation League countries in goals scored with 10 goals. However, half of the Red Devils’ scoring conversions come from two players: Lukaku and Dries Mertens. Mertens has been a sneaky weapon in his limited group showings.
Consider that in his two starting appearances for Belgium, he has a pair of goals. He had been kept out of the previous two Nations League meetings due to injury but has since returned to full form with League Club Napoli. Expect Mertens to be ready to roll against the Three Lions.
Following Sunday’s clash against England, Belgium will finish off the remaining group game against Denmark this upcoming Wednesday. However, the Danes still have a meetup this Sunday with Iceland and hold a one-goal lead over England in differential. You can argue that the Danish Dynamite are still very much in play.
Projected Starting Lineup
Team Formation: 3-4-3
With this being such an important match for both Belgium and England, we can expect both to roll out their best lineups. Lukaku will head the offensive attack for the Red Devils. On the wings, there should be the duo of Kevin De Bruyne and Mertens. A combination of Thorgan Hazard, Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, and Thomas Meunier should cover the midfield attack. Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, and Toby Alderweireld will get to handle the backend. Simon Mignolet will give up his starting role to Thibaut Courtois.
After the huge group win against Belgium at Wembley, England was in a great position. However, just a few days later they would suffer a one-nil loss against Denmark. Christian Eriksen would provide the lone goal for the Danes, converting on a penalty kick in the 35th minute. While it was a knockback to be sure, they are still very much in the running. After coming off a 3-0 flogging of Ireland this past Thursday, it should help restore some of that confidence heading into Sunday’s meeting.
After suffering a red card against the Danes, Harry Maguire was able to get the ball rolling against Ireland. With 18 minutes in, Maguire converted on a header. Jadon Sancho added to the Three Lions’ tally just thirteen minutes later, burying a shot through four Irish players and deep into the left-hand corner. In the 56th minute, Everton Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin would put the icing on the cake, scoring on a penalty kick. The penalty would come after a foul was committed on defender Bukayo Saka.
Another word of note is that 17-year-old Jude Bellingham would also get his first taste of international play. It would come in the 73rd minute, as Bellingham came in for Mason Mount. He had been called up to replace James Ward-Prowse for the two remaining round-robin games, along with the game against Ireland.
With England’s remaining game of round-robin play against Iceland this upcoming Wednesday, it should give the Three Lions plenty of added incentive to steal a victory in Leuven.
Projected Starting Lineup
Team Formation: 3-4-3
Due to the red cards against Denmark, both Reece James and Maguire will be unavailable against the Red Devils. Harry Kane centers the forward attack next to Sancho and Raheem Sterling. Ben Chilwell, Declan Rice, Kieran Trippier, and Jordan Henderson get the midfield duties for England. Eric Dier, Michael Keane, and Kyle Walker should be on the back end. Jordan Pickford will help out between the sticks.