MX23RW : Wednesday, September 22 11:29:31| >> :120:66225:66225:

Preview: Belgium vs. Croatia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's International Friendlies clash between Belgium and Croatia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Belgium and Croatia will both endeavour to round off their Euro 2020 preparations with a victory when they do battle at the King Baudouin Stadium in Sunday's friendly.

Both footballing powerhouses played out 1-1 draws in their midweek encounters, with Belgium being held by Greece while the Chequered Ones failed to get one over Armenia.


Match preview

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez on March 30, 2021© Reuters

With the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois all out of contention for the meeting with Greece, a ravaged Belgium squad failed to make their dominance count for large periods against Greece, but a fine finish from Thorgan Hazard propelled the Red Devils into the ascendancy come the half-time whistle.

However, the rarest of goalscorers in centre-back Georgios Tzavellas would restore parity for Greece in the 66th minute as Belgium had to shake hands on a stalemate - not exactly a morale-boosting result before their mission for European glory begins.

Nevertheless, hopes remain high in Brussels as Roberto Martinez looks ahead to what could be a historic tournament for Belgium, although the Spaniard has had to confirm the solemn news that De Bruyne will likely be unavailable for their opening clash of Euro 2020 with Russia on June 12.

The likes of Youri Tielemans and Yannick Carrasco can provide admirable flair in De Bruyne's absence, but Russia, Finland and Denmark will all smell blood should the Manchester City man's injury setback prove difficult to overcome, and Belgium would do well to avoid any further fitness concerns before they endeavour to win a major tournament for the very first time.

While Thursday's draw with Greece prevented the Red Devils from winning six in a row at home across all competitions, Martinez has now overseen an eight-game unbeaten run since defeat to England in the Nations League last October, and Belgium have not been beaten at their headquarters since David Silva inspired Spain to a 2-0 friendly win all the way back in September 2016.

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Meanwhile, Croatia opted to start most of their big-hitters in Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric and Ivan Perisic for the visit of lowly Armenia in midweek, and the latter's 23rd-minute header - during his 100th game for the national team - put the Chequered Ones a goal to the good before the half-time whistle blew.

However, Zlatko Dalic's side were pegged back by a 72nd-minute equaliser from Wbeymar Angulo as Armenia went toe-to-toe with the 2018 World Cup runners-up and came away with a remarkable draw to show for their efforts.

Dalic lamented a lack of "seriousness" from his side post-match, but the Croatia boss was not overwhelmingly concerned about his side's failure to beat a team ranked 76 places lower than them in the FIFA world rankings, and he has vowed to set his side up against Belgium as they will do at Wembley in their Euro 2020 opener with England.

Fixtures with the Czech Republic and Scotland also await for Croatia this summer, and having now managed to win just two of their last eight games in all competitions, Dalic could do with a confidence-boosting performance against the top-ranked team in the world before the real challenges commence.

However, Croatia have only managed to come out on top in one of their last four meetings with Belgium, and the Red Devils claimed a 2-1 win when the sides last met during qualification for the 2014 World Cup, with Lukaku netting a brace on the day.

Belgium International Friendlies form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D

Belgium form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

Croatia International Friendlies form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D

Croatia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D



Team News

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne goes off injured against Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29, 2021© Reuters

As mentioned, De Bruyne remains out for the time being and will not be ready to face Russia when Euro 2020 gets underway, while his former Chelsea teammate Hazard may not be risked just yet either.

Simon Mignolet and the previously uncapped Matz Sels were given run-outs in goal in midweek but Courtois may return here, while Axel Witsel is now back in training following a long-term Achilles layoff and could feature at some stage in the Euros.

It would be a surprise not to see Martinez make a number of alterations - especially given their current injury concerns - so the likes of Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans and Leandro Trossard could push for starting roles against Croatia.

Croatia lost Josip Brekalo to a twisted ankle during the first half against Armenia, and while Dalic is confident that the attacker's issue is not anything serious, he will certainly not be risked here.

The visiting coach has also confirmed that the tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 setup will be utilised ahead of the European Championship, and Mateo Kovacic will link up with the squad on Friday, but the Chelsea man's lack of team preparation means that he may be restricted to a substitute outing.

Dejan Lovren and Ante Rebic both shook off injury concerns to make the bench in midweek, while Mario Pasalic could earn a start in place of the injured Brekalo.

Belgium possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Castagne, Tielemans, Dendoncker, T. Hazard; Doku, Lukaku, Trossard

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Caleta-Car, Barisic; Brozovic, Modric; Vlasic, Pasalic, Perisic; Kramaric


SM words green background

We say: Belgium 1-1 Croatia

Both sides are in desperate need of an injection of confidence following less-than-satisfactory midweek results, but this fixture has all the makings of another cagey affair.

Belgium have not suffered defeat on home soil for over four years, but plenty of Croatia's big-hitters were spared for the final 45 minutes of their clash with Armenia, so we anticipate another close battle ending all square.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Belgium vs Croatia

Belgium
62.5%
Draw
22.1%
Croatia
15.4%
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Conor Coady celebrates scoring for England against Wales in an international friendly on October 8, 2020
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