Look at the scenes
No punches pulled by Martinez
Belgium are fielding what looks a strong side on paper. De Bruyne, Hazard, Tielemans, Witsel – to name just four. Top-class talent everywhere….
With a World Cup just around a corner and a Nations League group win to chase, Roberto Martinez is not messing around here.
Here are the teams…
Belgian XI: Courtois; Debast, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Batshuayi, Hazard
Wales XI: Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Norrington-Davies; Roberts, Ampadu, Smith, N Williams; Johnson, Moore, James
…and welcome to the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels as Belgium and Wales meet for a fourth time in the last 18 months.
This clash comes in the UEFA Nations League but the game’s importance surely lies more in its capacity as the first of two final games before both sides head to Qatar World Cup in November.
Roberto Martinez and Rob Page have just the remainder of this week to work with their squads before finalizing their selection plans ahead of the World Cup, meaning fringe squad members will be desperate to impress as they attempt to book their place on the plane to Qatar.
Tonight’s sides have met with regularity over the past decade. In fact, after meeting just eight times from 1949 to 1997, they have matched that number since 2012 – with tonight’s clash their ninth over that period.
Belgium superstar Kevin de Bruyne has even admitted to being bored by facing Wales in the run up to this one.
“I think half of my international career has been against Wales,” said De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder. “I don’t know why. It is a little bit boring. I think it is 12 times I have played them, it is always the same teams.”
While the quote was made more in jest than severity, it is worth noting that the head-to-head between the sides since 2012 have been remarkably even considering Belgium’s place among the presumed elite of international football.
Each side has two wins from the eight games, with the remaining four, including the two most recent, resulting in draws.
While attention will understandably be on the World Cup, Rob Page will be aware that a loss for his side here will condemn them to relegation into League B in the Nations League.
The Welsh have just one point from their four games in Group 4 but a win here would set them up for a relegation decider against Poland on Sunday.