Football fans will be in for a treat tonight with two of the most exciting teams of 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia so far set to clash, as England gear up to take on Belgium in their final Group G game.
Both the teams have been off to a brilliant start in football’s biggest competition. Belgium began their campaign with a 3-0 win over Panama, before thrashing Tunisia 5-2, while England had to rely on a late goal to beat Tunisia 2-1 in their opener, before they decimated Panama 6-1 in the next fixture.
Both England and Belgium are tied on six points, but it is the Three Lions that adorn the top spot in Group G owing to their superior disciplinary records, considering that they are level on goal difference and goals scored as well.
With qualification to the knockout stages confirmed for either team, there is a chance that the managers – Roberto Martinez (Belgium) and Gareth Southgate (England), might opt to give some of their key players a breather as they prepare for the next phase. But with the top spot up for grabs, it promises to be another captivating encounter.
And ahead of the much-anticipated match, we pick out some of the key reasons why the contest between England and Belgium will be a joyride for the fans, more so the Premier League followers;
While the entirety of the England squad plies its trade in the Premier League, a large number of the 23-man Belgian contingent in Russia are also based in the English top-flight, adding a familiar feel to the encounter.
The likes of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele, Simon Mignolet going up against their club teammates say Gary Cahill, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson etc., will no doubt be an enticing prospect for the fans. There are bound to be plenty of friendly rivalries on the field at the Kaliningrad, and very few secrets in either camps given the sheer number of players with lots of shared history.
The pillars of the Tottenham Hotspur side under Mauricio Pochettino over the past few seasons, some of the best in their respective positions in the Premier League, also happen to be the most consistent performers for their respective countries.
Kane had been in sensational form coming into the FIFA World Cup and has continued in the same way in Russia. The England captain leads the charts for the Golden Boot award, with five goals from two games – a brace in the opener and a hat-trick against Panama last time out. On current form, he seems unstoppable and the Three Lions will once again be looking up to their talismanic leader to deliver.
On the other hand, we will have Alderweireld and Vertonghen, who have been the cornerstones on which this Belgium team has been built upon. The defensive solidity and the assurance that they provide at the back allows the attack-minded players to thrive in Martinez’s side.
And watching them go head to head against an in-form and lethal Kane on Thursday night will, without a doubt, make for exciting viewing.
Another Tottenham teammate rivalry set to take the stage on Thursday, the midfield battle between Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele is something that many fans will be looking forward to. Often seen pairing up in the middle of the park, the duo offers a much-needed balance to Spurs at club level but are yet to start a single game in the World Cup for England and Belgium respectively. Both are likely to feature on Thursday and will be hoping to get one over each other and make a mark.
Phil Jones will likely go up against Manchester United teammate Marouane Fellaini. Another set of players who haven’t featured prominently so far in Russia, they will be hoping to do some damage should they get an opportunity tonight.
With Romelu Lukaku ruled out, Michy Batshuayi is all but certain to lead the attack for the Belgians and he could be in line to go up against Chelsea teammate Gary Cahill in the England defence. Premier League title winners Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker will meet Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne, should he feature, making for another interesting match-up.
There might not be much at stake heading into the game, but it still promises to be one of the major highlights of the World Cup in Russia, especially for an ardent Premier League follower.