Thursday, December 5, 2019

Prediction: Russia vs Belgium

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best Odds: 4/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

In a battle between two nations who have already secured their spot at next year’s European Championships, Russia will welcome Belgium to St. Petersburg on Saturday evening.

Russia

Starting with the hosts, continuing to build off of their famous quarter-final finish at last year’s World Cup finals, Russia’s continued success has undoubtedly sent shockwaves across Europe. Picking up an emphatic 5-0 win over Cyprus last month and already securing their spot at next year’s European Championships, Stanislav Cherchesov’s men have won seven of their eight qualifying matchups with that sole defeat coming against Belgium when opening their Group I campaign back in March. With the mood around St. Petersburg continuing to soar and now recording three clean sheets on the bounce, the Russians also have a growing reputation for their scintillating performances in the final third. Finding the net nine times in back-to-back appearances, including a 4-0 win over Scotland on home soil last month, one man to watch out for on Saturday will be leading goalscorer, Artem Dzyuba. The Zenit striker already has nine qualifying strikes in just his eight outings and sits only behind Isreal’s Eran Zahavi and England’s Harry Kane in the overall goalscoring charts.

Team News

Russia will be without Anton Miranchuk, Yury Gazinsky, Alan Dzagoev, Fyodor Smolov, and Valencia winger Denis Cheryshev this weekend. 

Belgium

As for the visitors, picking up a 2-0 win away in Kazakhstan last month and booking their spot at next year’s European Championships with plenty of time to spare, Belgium have continued to cement their spot as the #1 nation in FIFA’s rankings. Winning each of their eight Group I matchups and with only Italy also able to boast a 100% run during qualifying, Roberto Martinez’s star-studded side have also begun to catch the eye with their continued success at the back. Remarkably, the Red Devils have now recorded seven clean sheets on the bounce and have conceded just a single strike on route to EURO 2020. Seen to be one of the leading contenders to lift their first piece of silverware next year, the one-time Wigan boss also has his own leading marksman who will likely lead the line this weekend. Despite missing last month’s internationals due to injury, Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has been reinstalled to Belgium’s squad and has continued to shine since swapping Old Trafford for the San Siro over the summer. The 26-year-old has already recorded 14 goals across all competitions since opening the 2019/2020 campaign.

Team News

Belgium will be unable to call upon three defenders in Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, and Thomas Meunier this weekend.

Key Factors to Consider

  • When the two nations met back in March, Belgium came away with a 3-1 victory.
  • Russia striker Artem Dzyuba has nine goals in his eight Group I appearances and sits second in the overall goalscoring charts.
  • Belgium marksman Romelu Lukaku has 14 goals across all competitions since making the move to Inter Milan.
  • Russia are enjoying a five-match winning run on home soil and are averaging over three goals per game on that winning run.
  • Belgium have won all eight of their qualifying matchups.

Conclusion

While Belgium will travel to St. Petersburg as a favorite with the bookmakers this weekend, Roberto Martinez will know that Saturday’s contest will prove to be a tough task. With Russia continuing to show some very eye-catching improvements and the mood in their camp the highest it has been in recent memory, Stanislav Cherchesov’s men also have a growing reputation for their form in the final third. With the two nations playing out four strikes when they met back in March, we’re backing another lively contest on Saturday evening.

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best Odds: 4/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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