The Nations League might be taxing on players this season, but it surely provides excitement when two top-four FIFA ranked teams go head to head.
Gareth Southgate’s young charges have a tall order as they look to claim the top spot in League A Group 2 when they take on Belgium this Sunday. The English would like to make the most of their home advantage in this fixture despite the lack of supporters.
In football today, onus is on attacking football so we expect a really enticing encounter on the horizon.
It will be the second game in three days for both sides. The Three Lions defeated a Gareth Bale less Wales 3-0 at the Wembley. The Belgian national team’s friendly with New Zealand was canceled, but their meeting with Ivory Coast was an exciting 1-1 draw.
Belgium to maintain their League A Group 2 stranglehold?
England are unbeaten in six games, while the Red Devils’ unbeaten run stretches to 13 games. Belgium’s draw brought an end to their 12-match winning run that went back to 2018. They are not to be trifled with but have shown cracks within their ranks.
Roberto Martinez is without captain Eden Hazard while the English continue to tinker with their squad ahead of the European Championships. It will be an exciting encounter that promises a lot. There are more similarities than differences between the two, especially with respect to their style of play.
Given the depth of attacking talents at their disposal, both teams like to attack. Martinez has rejuvenated the Belgians while Southgate has reinvigorated the Three Lions with his preference to venture in enemy territory en masse.
However, it is the presence of experienced professionals that gived the traveling side the edge. Belgium has a core defense that is well versed with each other’s nuances. The same rule can be applied in other areas of the pitch. They do have a chink in their armor as the error-prone Simon Mignolet starts between the sticks.
For the English, only Harry Kane has an international experience to be envied off. The captain is a stalwart who is a leader on and off the pitch. His recent impressive form with goals and assists in Tottenham colors is one to behold, as he beckons on becoming an all encompassing forward.
Both sides even out against each other, given their recent form. England have a squad beginning to impose themselves while Belgium seem to be in transition. It will be difficult for the Red Devils to maintain their stranglehold in League A Group B given the Three Lions recent form.
England - Belgium fixture in favor of the hosts
Timing matters, and it is of greater significance in this fixture. The absence of out of shape Eden Hazard, coupled with Simon Mignolet in goal and wasteful Michy Batshuayi leading the lines, paints a poor picture for the Belgians.
On the other hand, the English seem to be improving with their new crop of players fighting it out amongst eachother for a starting slot. Improvements in Harry Kane under Jose Mourinho gives one optimism. In addition, Jack Grealish’s belated call-up to the English ranks gives them another dimension in attack and tenacity when on the back foot.
England should give their rivals a run for the money and have enough quality to claim victory. The odds are in favor of the visitors, but not by much. It is their recent historical record that goes against Southgate’s men.
The Red Devils defeated them twice in the 2018 World Cup, but one should remember that was two years ago. The squads have changed a lot and the circumstances are different.
Managers in Spotlight
England have not impressed in international tournaments until Gareth Southgate ushered in this new generation of stars. More debuts have been handed under him in the last two years than under his Roy Hodgson, and Sam Allardyce combined.
In addition, this Three Lion’s golden generation has a youthful abundance that makes them fearless and exciting to watch. This is why they have a whole country watching intently their every move. Southgate has gradually moved on underperforming experienced stars and added players to the mix who live up to his standards.
However, he has a poor record against Roberto Martinez. The Spanish tactician defeated him twice in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, defeats that sting the English to this day. Southgate can reverse it in this fixture as he takes on a severely depleted Belgian squad.
Four years ago when Roberto Martinez took charge of Belgium, they were struggling to give the performances expected of their golden generation. The Red Devils had slipped from their #1 ranking and needed a shakeup.
He revitalized the squad and they duly responded to his possession based ideology. They have not let go since then and have comfortably held on to pole position for the last two years. However, that status is under challenge.
While Romelu Lukaku has found comfort in the Serie A, Eden Hazard’s move to Rea Madrid could not have gone worse. The mercurial talent has struggled at the Santiago Bernabeu, and it can impact Belgium’s fortunes.
If there was a time in recent history where Belgium were struggling, this is it. They need to give a good account of their abilities if they are to keep England and the chasing pack at bay.
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Nations League Live Football on TV This Weekend
Friday 10 October(All UK times)
Spain v Switzerland (19 45)
Ukraine v Germany (19 45)
Saturday 11 October(All UK times)
Bosnia and Herzegovina v Netherlands (17 00)
Croatia v Sweden (17 00)
Poland v Italy (19 45)
Iceland v Denmark (19 45)
France v Portugal (19 45)