England’s players celebrate a goal against Ireland on Thursday night | Pool/Getty Images
England face a monumental must-win game on the road in Belgium on Sunday night, while the hosts look to seal their place at the UEFA Nations League finals.
The Three Lions sit in third place in League A Group 2 with two games to go, and there is quite some work to be done if Gareth Southgate’s men want to nail down a spot at next summer’s mini tournament.
Level on seven points with Denmark in second, England must beat the Red Devils to stand any chance of progressing – a feat they managed at Wembley last month.
Belgium’s fate is in their own hands as they can qualify for the Nations League finals with a win regardless of the outcome of Denmark’s game against Iceland, with the latter already relegated.
Should England and Belgium draw and Denmark win, then it would go down to the last round of fixtures on Wednesday night.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the game.
When is Kick-Off? Sunday 15 November
What Time is Kick-Off? 19:45 ( GMT )
Where is it Played? Den Dreef, Leuven, Belgium
TV Channel/ Live Stream? Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Referee? Danny Makkelie (NED)
Belgium will be without a few key players for this game; captain Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski have both been sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
Leandro Trossard, Timothy Castagne, Alexis Saelemaekers and Hendrik van Crombrugge have also been forced out due to injury. Kevin De Bruyne, who wasn’t involved in Belgium’s 2-1 victory over Iceland last month, is expected to return to the lineup.
Eden Hazard will remain unavailable for selection after confirming that he’s tested positive for COVID-19 | Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images
England have plenty of personnel issues of their own coming into this clash. Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Ward-Prowse and Joe Gomez have all been forced out of the squad due to injury, while Marcus Rashford is also reportedly sidelined with a shoulder injury. Conor Coady has been sent home after reported exposure to COVID-19
Harry Maguire and Reece James are suspended following their respective red cards against Denmark.
First team regulars such as captain Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford didn’t feature in the friendly win against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday and will be looking to make their way back into the starting XI.
I’ll be back ?? Good luck boys ???????♥️ https://t.co/IwbWAJg4gC
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) November 13, 2020
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Boyata, Meunier; Witsel, Tielemans, De Bruyne; T. Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku
England: Pickford; Walker, Dier, Keane; Trippier, Rice, Henderson, Chilwell; Sancho, Kane, Sterling
The hosts have turned a corner following last month’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of England with narrow victories over Iceland and Switzerland. The return of midfielder De Bruyne will be a massive boost for the home side, considering the fact that Eden Hazard is currently not in the frame.
Belgium have three victories out of four in the Nations League and Roberto Martinez’s men will have their eyes set on securing qualification for the finals and getting one over Southgate’s men.
? @mbatshuayi is the Devil of the Match against Switzerland ?? #BELSUI #COMEONBELGIUM ?? pic.twitter.com/DXSkehHUSG
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) November 11, 2020
After a deserved 2-1 victory over Belgium last month, England put on a lacklustre display at home to Denmark with red cards for Maguire and James summing up what was a horrendous night for the Three Lions.
However, they’ll be looking to take some confidence from this week’s strong showing against Ireland and do the double over the Red Devils in the group phase.
Here’s how both sides have fared in their last five games in all competitions.
Belgium 2-1 Switzerland ( 11/11 )
Iceland 1-2 Belgium ( 14/10 )
England 2-1 Belgium ( 11/10 )
Belgium 1-1 Ivory Coast ( 08/10 )
Belgium 5-1 Iceland ( 08/09 )
England 3-0 Republic of Ireland ( 12/11 )
England 0-1 Denmark ( 14/10 )
England 2-1 Belgium ( 11/10 )
England 3-0 Wales ( 08/10 )
Denmark 0-0 England ( 08/09 )
England have the strength in depth to cope with the injuries and suspensions on their hands. They’ve looked better at the back recently and much more potent going forward with Jack Grealish being at the heart of their attack.
Should the Aston Villa forward maintain his place on Sunday, he could cause all sorts of problems for a Belgian defence that has looked shaky in the past few games.
Belgium will have the artistry of Kevin De Bruyne at their disposal against England on Sunday. | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images
However, Belgium will be welcoming back De Bruyne, a man who can decide a game on his own and if he is in the mood, Belgium are second to none going forward.
Prediction: Belgium 2-1 England