The highly anticipated sixteenth edition of the European Championships flagged off yesterday. Group B will kick-start soon with Russia, Belgium, Denmark, and Finland set to face off. The first clashes will see Russia take on Belgium while Scandinavian countries Denmark and Finland face on the other side.
Gazprom Arena in St.Petersburg, Russia will play host to the encounter between the nations that are separated by 37 places in the football rankings.
Belgium will head into the fixture against Russia as the number one ranked team in the world, but despite the numerical accolade, the nation yearns for silverware from its golden generation.
The Red Devils endured a perfect qualification campaign by amassing 30 points out of a possible 30 points. The impeccable phase saw them concede only 3 goals.
Moreover, out of those 10 victories, two of them were against their tonight’s opponents. Belgium had prevailed 3-1 and 4-1 over Russia, and that will give them a psychological advantage heading into this fixture.
A slight wobble for the rampant Red Devils comes in the form of Kevin de Bruyne, who is expected to sit out the first game. The midfielder suffered a orbital bone fracture in the Champions League and is still recuperating from it.
Belgium have been lining their side up with a 3-4-2-1 formation. The experienced centre back duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will protect the goal guarded by Thibaut Courtois. Timothy Castagne, Thorgan Hazard and Yannick Carrasco all pose as viable candidates for the wing back slots.
Youri Tielemans is expected to lead the midfield in the absence of de Bruyne. He is expected to be partnered alongside fellow Premier League youngster Leander Dendoncker.
The lethal front three that set the World Cup alight three years ago is still intact. Hopes lie on the underfiring Eden Hazard to gel with Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku in the final third of the pitch .
Russia were the second team off Belgium’s qualification group to progress into the tournament. The 2018 World Cup hosts endured a smooth campaign barring the twin heavy defeats to Belgium.
The inaugural winners of the competition had a nightmarish outing in the previous Euros with only a solitary point in the group stage. They however, had a much better showing in the World Cup, where they managed to oust heavyweights Spain in the knockout stages.
While Belgium are heavy favourites to bag the top spot in Group B, Russia will be hoping to sneak through by either upsetting Denmark for the second place or have an advantage over other third placed nations across the rest of the groups.
The onus will once again be on the likes of Aleksandr Golovin and Artem Dzyuba, who will lead the attack.
A slight respite for the Russian side comes in the fact that their Belgian counterparts had a lean set of friendlies heading into this match. The absence of de Bruyne and Hazard’s questionable form, instills some hope, but the task of overcoming the number one ranked team in the world is still a very hard task.
Waging Odds: Russia (4.50) vs Belgium (1.50) (Draw 3.50)
Russia are the underdogs and are priced at 4.50, meaning if you bet ₹100 on them and if they win the match, you’ll be making ₹450.
Belgium are priced at 1.50 and are the favourites. Betting ₹100 on them will earn you ₹150 if they come out as winners.
The odds for a draw is placed at 3.50. Betting ₹100 on them will earn you ₹350 if the fixture ends all level.
Despite not heading into the tournament in the best of forms after a tame draw and a slender win over Poland and Bulgaria respectively, expect Belgium to fire all cylinders when it means business.
Romelu Lukaku’s red hot form makes him a player to watch out for even though ace playmaker de Bruyne misses out.
This should be a comfortable win for the Red Devils by a margin of 3-0 to put up their first points on the board.