Belgium v Russia - Expert v Expert Preview


Highly-fanced Belgium  had to come from behind to beat Algeria in their first game, and our expert John Chapman runs the rule over them ahead of their trip to Rio to face a Russia  side who are previewed by Artur Petrosyan.

TEAM NEWS

John Chapman on Belgium: Once more, Marc Wilmots is not revealing his team. Against Russia he could reunite the old Standard Liege trio of Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Defour. That would mean Kevin De Bruyne staying on the right flank and Dries Mertens again starting on the bench. Romelu Lukaku should start despite substitute Divock Origi looking very sharp against Algeria. Veteran Daniel Van Buyten is also likely to stay in the starting 11.

Artur Petrosyan on Russia: Fabio Capello has no more injury concerns so it's now all about team selection he has to make. All three players who came on as substitutes (Kerzhakov, Dzagoev and Denisov) looked better than those they replaced (Zhirkov, Shatov and Glushakov) against South Korea so these are the most likely changes the Italian will make against Belgium. Igor Akinfeev will keep his place in goal despite his blunder. He's had all kinds of support starting from different celebrities and ending with Capello.

FORM

John Chapman: Belgium only looked good against Algeria in the last 20 minutes after Fellaini and Mertens came off the bench. Prior to that, they had looked slow and short of ideas. However, it had been their first 45 minutes in a major tournament and Algeria had packed their defence and scored on the break – via a penalty. Despite the criticism, Wilmots was quite happy with the way in which the game played out against Algeria. He’ll be looking to the team to continue in that vein and he’ll be sure to use substitutes early if the need arises.

Artur Petrosyan: Russia have now not lost in 11 matches in a row with their defeat in Belfast last August (0-1) being the last one. There are still all kinds of critics of the ultra defensive Capello's approach from the media and fans. After the game v Korea and lack of proper attacking action in it, Russia were compared to Greece and Italy in their most defensive times. Any changes to the approach are still unlikely as the Italian manager has never and never will pay attention to anyone's opinion. So expect a deep defensive line and constant pressure against Belgium.

WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS

Belgium’s Marc Wilmots: 'I know my team for Sunday and the only doubt is Vincent [Kompany]. This generation is capable of achieving something but we will take it step-by-step.'

Russia’s Fabio Capello: 'We started playing the proper way against Korea only after conceding. That's not acceptable and needs to change. Anyway it was clear that this team has a will and it's able to succeed.'

KEY MAN

 

John Chapman: Following Marouane Fellaini’s goal against Algeria, he’s been the focus of much attention by the world’s media. He’s likely to start as a box-to-box midfielder and he’s also ‘Plan B’ – going up to support the striker - if the need arises. During the Algeria game, Gary Lineker said that Manchester United should sign the Fellaini that plays for Belgium, to which the player replied “there’s only one Fellaini”.

Artur Petrosyan: It's probably going to be Alan Dzagoev. He was missing from the starting XI v Korea but after his introduction he showed everyone that there's no such type of player in the present Russia team (who have lost Roman Shirokov prior to World Cup). So it's obvious for many he'll take Oleg Shatov's place in the number 10 role and will add what was missing - ideas in attack. Bearing in mind Belgium lack quick full backs, Dzagoev's ability to make smart passes and make wingers work the right way could definitely help.

BEST BET

John Chapman: I like the look of Belgium registering another 2-1 win and so I’d go for Belgium to win with over 2.5 goals in the game at 3.30. And Marouane Fellaini will be aching to get on the score sheet again and looks good value to score at 4.50.

Artur Petrosyan: I'd stick with Under 1.5 total goals (3.25) as there will again unlikely be many goal scoring opportunities. The X/1 HT/FT (5.10) looks probable with Belgium likely to up the tempo after the interval. Fellaini to score anytime (4.50) also worth looking at. And finally Belgium to be awarded a penalty (5.00) looks good bearing in mind that Hazard and Mertens will probably leave Russia's full backs behind a few times.

SCORE PREDICTION

John Chapman: Belgium 2 Russia 1 at 9.50.

Artur Petrosyan: Belgium 1-0 Russia at 7.00.

 

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