INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at Monday's friendly international between Belgium and Czech Republic.
Belgium v Czech Republic | Monday 19:45
Belgium entertain the Czech Republic on Monday night at the King Baudouin Stadium in preparation for their upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifier against Estonia.
The Red Devils have picked up 13 points from a possible 15 in Group H thus far, blasting a remarkable 22 goals and conceding just twice. The only blip on their resume is a 1-1 draw with second-placed Greece, who trail the leaders by two points.
Estonia bore the brunt of the Belgian attack in their first meeting, conceding eight goals in Brussels and Roberto Martinez’s men are now expected to cruise towards a finals place, even without the injured Eden Hazard.
Martinez hasn’t taken any chances with his squad, calling up all of his stars and letting none of them take an early holiday – only the injured Thomas Meunier and Mousa Dembele are absent – and the talent throughout the group is obvious.
Only Germany, Brazil, Spain, Argentina and France are ahead of Belgium in the 2018 World Cup outright betting but should Martinez find the right balance then the Red Devils have to be considered runners to lift the trophy in Russia.
The hosts are understandably short-priced 4/9 (Bet365) favourites here but before we pile into them, it’s worth noting that Martinez may be looking to take a look at some of his less-heralded players; in defence Laurent Ciman and Dedryck Boyata may be given minutes with Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker starting in midfield.
The Czechs are in a similar position and head coach Karel Jarolim has already had his request to be allowed more than the usual six substitutions accepted by the Belgians. Jarolim suggested he was keen to give game-time to as many of his team as possible and that may mean a stop-start, punctuated second-half.
The Lions are will be without Tomas Vaclik, Tomas Sivok, Marek Suchy and Borek Dockal due to club commitments but do boast Juventus-bound youngster Patrik Schick in their armoury in attack.
The 21 year-old is on the cusp of a move to the Italian champions following a tremendous breakout campaign with Sampdoria, scoring 11 goals in 32 league appearances, just 14 of which were starts. That form saw Pavel Nedved suggest Schick could become the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic – high praise.
Elsewhere the Czechs are thin on quality and have struggled in their qualification group, sitting behind Germany and Northern Ireland in Group C following a W2-D2-L1 return whilst six of their eight goals arrived in one game against San Marino.
The betting angle
Belgium should have too much class here but I wouldn’t want to rule out an away goal – the Red Devils have leaked in their last 10 exhibition matches – and so I’m going to bring Over 2.5 Goals into the equation for an 11/10 (Coral) play.
It's a selection that's provided profit in Belgium's past 10 victories in Brussels whilst the hosts side have seen seven of their last 10 home outings feature at least three goals; the same can be said of 10 of the Czech Republic’s previous 12 games as guests with the Lions' sole shutout arriving at San Marino.
Belgium v Czech Republic – Belgium to win and Over 2.5 Goals (11/10 Coral)