Russia are scheduled to entertain Belgium in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday. Both nations have already qualified for the continental competition next season but there is still the top spot at stake with two games to play.
The hosts are presently three points adrift of Roberto Martinez’s side, who have the perfect record after eight group stage matches. Russia could, however, leapfrog the Red Devils to the first place, should they win by two clear goals at the Krestovsky Stadium this weekend.
The previous meeting between the sides was at the King Baudouin Stadium earlier in March where Belgium registered a 3-1 triumph. Youri Tielemans netted after just 14 minutes on the clock but Denis Cheryshev equalised a few moments later. Right before the half-time interval, the Red Devils took the lead once more through an Eden Hazard penalty. The skipper put the game to bed with his second goal in the 88th minute and that was soon followed by the sending off of Aleksandr Golovin for the visitors. The midfielder was handed a second yellow card for his intentional kick on Dries Mertens.
Players to watch out for:
Artem Dzyuba – Russia: Artem Dzyuba has been the main goalscoring threat for Russia with nine goals in the qualifying campaign and nearly half of those strikes (four goals) have come against San Marino, who were always expected to lose by a big margin. In the absence of Denis Cheryshev through injury, Dzyuba will once again take up the scoring mantle and he should pose a challenge to the Belgium backline with his strong aerial presence and good finishing skills. The Zenit St. Petersburg striker has also impressed with his link-up play in the final third of the pitch and has bagged five assists through the qualifying phase.
Kevin de Bruyne – Belgium: Belgium have the luxury of several world-class players in their ranks and each one of them is capable of making the difference on their day. However, De Bruyne is probably the most complete player of the lot, considering his impressive distribution, set-piece taking ability and tendency to find the net. Owing to ligaments injuries, De Bruyne has made just four appearances in the campaign, but he has made a genuine impact with two goals and four assists. The Manchester City star missed the previous set of internationals but prior to that, he set a Euro 2020 qualifier record with three assists against Scotland.
Russia remain a strong proposition in front of their fans and they are yet to concede a single goal at home. However, they will come against a team which scored three goals past them in the reverse fixture and Belgium should edge out the encounter by a slender margin. Since the Russia meeting, Belgium have kept seven clean sheets on the bounce but that streak may end at the weekend, though we fancy them to win.
Russia 1-2 Belgium