Belgian Golden Generation will take a trip to Saint Petersburg for their opening match of EURO 2020, where they’ll take on the 2018 World Cup quarter-finalists. The Russians will enjoy home ground advantage for this bout, which should serve as an added boost as they look to cause an upset in front of 34,000 spectators.
Russia vs Belgium
Where: Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, Russia
When: Saturday, June 12 – 21:00 CEST
Weather: Mostly Sunny, 16°C
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)
Russians have yet to defeat Belgium since their first meeting in 2002, having lost both of their last two meetings with 1-3 and 1-4.
Still, after their impressive performance at 2018 Worlds and with some of key members missing for the Red Devils for this bout, the hosts must feel hopeful they can cause some damage and get themselves noticed by the fans all over the world.
Russia Counting on Home Advantage
Russia will kick off their EURO 2020 campaign in front of nearly 34,000 spectators, hoping they can emulate their run at the 2018 World Cup. There they stunned the world and reached the quarter-finals, only to get eliminated by the eventual finalists, Croatia.
Entering this match, Stanislav Cherchesov won’t be able to count on his winger, 23-year-old Andrei Mostovoy who is out due to COVID-19. Still, the hosts have plenty of talent to fill in the gaps and put up a fight against one of the tournament favourites.
The Russians have been playing well in games leading to EURO 2020. Although they are 3-4-3 in their last 10 outings, that stretch includes a few solid showings.
Namely their victories against Malta (3-1), Slovenia (2-1), and Bulgaria (1-0), as well as draws with Turkey (1-1) and Poland (1-1). Russia’s only three losses came against Turkey (2-3), Serbia (5-0), and Slovakia (2-1). However none of those happened on their home soil, where the Russians are undefeated in their last four and boast a 6-2-2 record.
Russia have a very deep bench, experienced players, and will enjoy the home-court advantage. Big reasons why the Russians shouldn’t be overlooked.
Belgium Expected to Shine
The Golden Generation is expected to compete for gold at EURO 2020. And while that’s a reasonable expectation, it’s not like Belgium are without weaknesses – particularly for this bout.
A key player for Roberto Martínez will be Romelu Lukaku, who has been exceptional this season and is a strong candidate for the Golden Boot award at EURO 2020. Still, Lukaku’s form this season can quickly blind you from realising players around him aren’t doing as well.
Eden Hazard has had a terrible season and has quickly found himself under fire by Real Madrid fans, who want him out of the team ASAP. Understandable demands for a player that cost the Galacticos well over €100 million but has managed only six goals in 54 appearances.
In the backline, Belgium boast a highly experienced trio of Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen. Experience is usually the key in big tournaments like this one, however, it has its price – age.
Although those are all marginal issues that likely won’t mean much in the greater picture, there are two big concerns with Belgium for this match. They will miss both Axel Witsel (Achilles Tendon injury) and Kevin De Bruyne (face injury), which is a huge problem.
Without the two, the team will have a hard time enabling their go-to man in Lukaku. Without key passers feeding him the ball, scoring goals won’t come easy – especially against the Russian’s backline.
Russia vs Belgium Betting Picks
Belgium are priced as massive favourites for this bout, which makes a lot of sense. The Golden Generation has been praised repeatedly as one of the best football team in recent history, however, we have a reason to believe they’ll struggle tonight.
Belgium’s key strength comes in the form of Lukaku, who can effortlessly threaten any team, but without players to back him up with accurate passes, he will have a much tougher time doing his job.
If Belgium can’t score, they’ll have to show up in the backline, where the young Russian side will likely find holes as the take on the ageing Belgian defenders. A shock win for the hosts is something that could potentially happen, but we’re happy with the odds offered on the +0.5 goal handicap.
Prediction: Russia +0.50 Asian Handicap
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