Marc Wilmots is unwilling to take any risks with Thomas Vermaelen in Sunday’s friendly against Norway as Belgium’s defensive injury crisis ahead of Euro 2016 threatens to worsen.
Wilmots has already been shorn of captain Vincent Kompany, Dedryck Boyata, Bjorn Engels and, it would seem, Nicolas Lombaerts, for the upcoming tournament.
Centre-back Vermaelen, who endured another injury-plagued campaign in 2015-16, had to leave training early on Friday due to pain in his calf, and the Red Devils coach is planning on wrapping the Barcelona man up in cotton wool for the match with Norway in Brussels.
“I will not take any risks. He will not play on Sunday,” Wilmots said, in quotes reported by Vavel.
Wilmots explained on Friday that Vermaelen initially picked up the problem during last Wednesday’s friendly with Finland and is hopeful it is not serious, ahead of Belgium’s opening European Championship match against Italy on June 13.
Lombaerts was expected to miss the Euros with a hamstring problem, but Wilmots hinted that the Zenit man could still travel to France as his recovery is going well.
“Is it still possible that he could play in the Euros? We’ll see in the coming days,” he added.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco will also sit the Norway game out with a calf issue, although Wilmots insisted the Atletico Madrid winger will return to training next week, while midfielders Marouane Fellaini (groin), Mousa Dembele (muscle) and Radja Nainggolan (calf) could also be rested.
Belgium head into Sunday’s friendly on the back of a below-par performance against Finland, when they needed a late equaliser from Romelu Lukaku to snatch a 1-1 draw.
Meanwhile, Norway – who failed to qualify for Euro 2016 – travel to Brussels having beaten Iceland 3-2 in Oslo last Wednesday.
This match represents their last friendly before they begin their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign against Germany in September.