Belgium and Greece square off in 2018 World Cup Qualifying action this coming Saturday.
This top of the table clash sees the highly fashionable Belgium side take on the proverbial journeymen of European football: Greece. Roberto Martinez’s tenure as the new manager of this extraordinarily talented Belgium side has got off to a glorious start with four consecutive victories. This Belgium side have been flat-track bullies for some time now, able to string together sequences of victories that tend to obfuscate some of their defensive issues. Greece are slowly emerging from a period of international hiatus that saw them fail to qualify for the Euros last year. Michael Skibbe’s side have started qualification positively and know that this will be their severest test thus far.
Belgium v Greece | Saturday 25 March | Stade Roi Baudouin | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Belgium 3/10 | Draw 4/1 | Greece 9/1
Roberto Martinez will either turn out to be the perfect fit for this Belgian side, or the worst thing that ever happened to it. His unapologetically attacking instincts will gel well with the embarrassment of riches that this Belgium side has. But it’s their defensive frailties that have held them back from being more influential on the international side. Is Martinez the man to find that balance? They have scored 21 goals in their four matches thus far, so it’s hard to argue with that return.
Eden Hazard has been excluded from the squad due to a nagging injury while Vincent Kompany has also been left out. Martinez will likely persist with the en vogue 3-4-3 formation of the moment, with Vermaelen and Meunier likely being the wing-backs. Dembele and Nainggolan provide industry and potency in the heart of midfield while - even without the effervescent Hazard - Belgium have a powerful attacking line-up.
Romelu Lukaku is going to be their totemic striker for many years to come and he already has five goals in this qualifying campaign. De Bruyne and Mertens will likely be the men is support of Lukaku, with Carrasco a further possible option. This Belgium side clearly has the edge in terms of quality and will look to stretch a rather rigid, staid Greek side that is going to look to frustrate for as long as possible.
Michael Skibbe has made a few changes to the squad that last played in November. Keeper Karnezis is out with a fractured finger, which will likely see Stefanos Kapino pick up the unenviable duty of being gloveman this week. Kyriakos Papadopoulos has been left out of the squad as well.
Skibbe plays with a fairly compact 4-2-3-1 that will clearly look to play on the counterattack or utilise Mitroglou’s clear physical presence to gain a foothold in the Belgium half. It’s going to be tough for Mitroglou with the three central defenders that Belgium are likely to deploy.
Bologna midfielder and Greek captain Vasilis Torosidis and Petros Mantalos are going to need to be ultra-disciplined in midfield this week.Stopping Dembele and Nainggolan getting in advanced areas will be the key to curtailing this Belgium side that can just as easily hold possession or counter swiftly. They will want to take advantage of all dead-ball situations but must remain mindful of the intense counterattacking threat that Belgium possess.
Verdict: Matchbet + Both Teams to Score - Belgium and Yes 9/4
With Belgium being such overwhelming favourites, I think that one has to get a bit creative this week. One thing that was apparent in the Euros was that Belgium have been vulnerable to the more direct approach at times. In Mitroglou, Greece have a player that they can hinge a direct approach around. So I expect Belgium to win comfortably, but Greece may be able to pick a hole - rather force an opening - in this Belgium side.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets