Belgium’s Red Devils will begin preparations on Wednesday evening for their last two Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Trainer Roberto Martinez has lined up 29 players for the first training session at Tubize, open to the public, but already sold out. Belgium has already qualified for Euro 2020 but will be gunning for first place in its pool when it comes up against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Saturday followed by Cyprus on Tuesday at King Baudouin Stadium.
For the year’s last matches, the Red Devils’ Spanish trainer has made a major change, calling up 21-year-old Elias Cobbaut for the first time. The left-footed Anderlecht defender was given the nod over players like Christian Kabasele and Bjorn Engels, who play in the English Premier League for Watford and Aston Villa respectively.
Roberto Martinez has had to make do without Jan Vertonghen, who holds the record number of caps for the Red Devils, 118, but is nursing a hamstring injury. Also out of the squad is Thomas Meunier, suffering from a muscle injury. There are also question marks about Thomas Vermaelen.
The good news is that Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will be able to play together for the first time since early June. In the midfield, Leandro Trossard has again been called up whereas Adnan Januzaj, about whom Martinez had some doubts, is not among the 29, since he has had little playtime with Real Sociedad: this will be his first absence from the team since October 2018.
Martinez has again selected Maxime Lestienne. The Standard player had been called up in October for the first time since 2013 but had to pull out before the first training session due to injury.
A win or draw on Saturday against Russia would guarantee Belgium the top slot in Group I. The result of the Cyprus game will also determine whether the Red Devils will remain one of the seeded teams for the draw in Bucharest on 30 November.
Only the six best group leaders from the qualifying round will have top-seed status. In the event of a tie, the selection will be based on goal average.