Russia, one of the co-hosts, will kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Belgium at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, 12 June 2021.
The Red Devils earned 3-1 and 4-1 victories over Russia when the sides locked horns during the Euro 2020 qualifying and thus Belgium remained unbeaten in their seven meetings with the Russians (winning five), whose most memorable result in this tie was a 3-3 friendly draw in March 2017.
Belgium Betting Preview
The Red Devils have their eyes firmly on the Henri Delaunay Trophy, 41 years on from their unsuccessful venture at Euro 1980 – which saw the Guy Thys' Belgium side fall victim to the prowess of West Germany in the final.
Roberto Martinez will strive to lead the world's top-ranked nation to the maiden international honour which they so strongly crave and they surely have the performers to believe they can finally earn it.
Belgium had an impressive qualifying campaign as Roberto Martinez's side won all of their 10 games and scored a whopping 40 goals in them, conceding just three in the process. As mentioned above, this also includes two comfortable wins over Russia.
The Red Devils return to the Krestovsky Stadium where they first lost to France in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals but then defeated England in the third-place match only a few days later.
Roberto Martínez will likely have to begin his Euro 2020 campaign without the influential playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who injured his nasal bone during the Champions League final and the Belgian ace will most likely miss out his nation's Euro 2020 opener.
Several days ago, Martinez revealed that Eden Hazard is ready and fit to play so there's no reason why the Belgium captain should not start against Russia.
Dedryck Boyata and Leandro Trossard have shaken off their knocks and should be available for selection here, though it would be a surprise to see either man getting the nod, with veteran Jan Vertonghen and Thorgan Hazard expected to start.
Axel Witsel resumed training as the experienced midfielder returns from a long injury layoff, but Martinez would probably opt for Leander Dendoncker alongside fellow Premier League ace Youri Tielemans in central midfield.
Timothy Castagne will likely get the nod over Thomas Meunier at right wing-back as the Leicester City full-back could be favored thanks to his club partnership with Tielemans.
Russia Betting Preview
Stanislav Cherchesov's side more or less blew the competition out of the water to secure progression into a fifth consecutive European Championship, with two defeats to Belgium the only blips for Stanislav Cherchesov's side en route to Euro 2020 (8-0-2 record).
The Russians already proved they are no pushovers at the home World Cup three years ago, particularly with their round of 16 triumph against Spain, and Sbornaya will be looking to upset another European football powerhouse at the beginning of their Euro 2020 quest.
Stanislav Cherchesov went for three centre-backs in either of Russia's warm-up friendlies against Poland (1-1) and Bulgaria (1-0) earlier this month, so he'll likely stick with the same formation.
Aleksandr Sobolev's late winner sealed a 1-0 win in Russia's last warm-up match against Bulgaria but even this is unlikely to see the Spartak Moscow forward rewarded with a start over skipper Artem Dzyuba, as the 2018 World Cup hero aims to reach 30 international goals for Russia and go level with all-time top scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
With a predominantly domestic crop of players, Cherchesov has his own “foreigners” as the likes of Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksey Miranchuk were enjoying a very decent campaign in some of Europe's top leagues – with AS Monaco and Atalanta, respectively – and they are both tipped to start in attacking midfield.
Possible Starting Lineups of Belgium and Russia
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois – Jan Vertonghen, Jason Denayer, Toby Alderweireld – Thorgan Hazard, Leander Dendoncker, Youri Tielemans, Timothy Castagne – Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens. (3-4-3)
Russia: Anton Shunin – Dmitri Barinov, Georgiy Dzhikiya, Andrey Semenov – Mário Fernandes, Magomed Ozdoev, Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyaev - Aleksey Miranchuk, Artem Dzyuba, Aleksandr Golovin. (3-4-3)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Recognized as one of the outright favorites (+650 to win Euro 2020 with BetOnline), Belgium are reasonably -140 favorites to get off to a flying start to their European Championship campaign and we're also backing them to win.
Normally, a Belgium side of such a caliber with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard firing on all cylinders would have no major issues marching to a comfortable victory regardless of Russia's home advantage, but Sbornaya may actually sense an opportunity against the injury-hit (are they?) Belgians.
Nevertheless, Roberto Martinez simply possesses an endless quality at his disposal, even without Kevin De Bruyne, while captain Eden Hazard would be eager to revive his career after another largely disappointing and injury-ridden season at Real Madrid.
Last but not least, Belgium have an in-form Romelu Lukaku, whose progress under Antonio Conte inspired his relentless form, which was crucial for Inter's first Scudetto since 2010. Therefore, Lukaku’s finishing ability and his physical presence could be a game-changer at any point, even if the game doesn’t go well for the Red Devils.