ENGLAND host Belgium on Sunday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up .
England vs Belgium | Sunday 11th October 2020, 17:00 | Sky Sports
England welcome the top ranked side in world football for their first UEFA Nations League (UNL) home game of this campaign, following two lifeless displays in Reykjavik and Copenhagen.
Those two games produced the grand total of one goal – an injury time Raheem Sterling penalty whereas in contrast against the same opposition Belgium eased past the Danes with a strike in each half before smashing five past an Iceland side who must have been pinching themselves when they took a 10th minute lead at the King Baudouin Stadium.
The Three Lions did manage to secure a 3-0 friendly win over Wales on Thursday night, but up until the opening goal on 26 minutes it was another laboured performance albeit from a much changed line up. The two players combining for that goal and who were impressive throughout, Jack Grealish and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will hope they have done enough to force their way in to the starting XI – but that is by no means a guarantee.
On the same evening Roberto Martinez’s much rotated side contested a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast and the Head Coach has confirmed no player will feature in all three fixtures in this International break, so trying to work out who will be playing is as ever quite the head scratcher for these fixtures.
Although England’s record at home is strong only losing to a nation in UNL League A here once in the last four years (W3, D3, L1) I was very surprised to see Belgium only slight favourites at a best priced 13/8 especially considering they have won five (W5, L1) of the total six UNL games they have played.
Prior to the aforementioned midweek stalemate, the Red Devils had gone 14 consecutive games scoring two or more goals including the only blip on that UNL record when taking a 5-2 hammering in Switzerland having raced in to a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes.
So, given the, in my opinion, generous odds on a Belgium win, coupled with the fact England are on a run of six consecutive clean sheets (Wales, Denmark, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bulgaria) we can get a decent odds on them breaching the home defence on more than one occasion in this one as they did the last time the countries met in the 2018 third place World Cup play-offs.
Cardiff striker Kieffer Moore caused Michael Keane, Conor Coady and Joe Gomez enough problems in his 39 minutes of action on Thursday to suggest a Kevin De Bruyne fed Romelu Lukaku should do more damage – even if an out of form Harry Maguire or Tyrone Mings come in to that back line – possibly more so if Jordan Pickford replaces the assured Nick Pope in goal.
For me the 11/8 available on Belgium to score Over 1.5 Goals with Bet 365 looks good value.
As previously mentioned second guessing the line ups in these games is not easy, however two player bets have caught my eye and I am taking a chance that both will at least be starting this clash.
I would expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to take up the right wing-back position at the expense of Kieran Trippier – who may switch flanks – as much for his threat to the opposition in the final third as his defensive capabilities. The Liverpool stars abilities from set piece situations and long-range shooting come as no surprise to us anymore – or at least you would think they don’t!
In the last three Premier League games for the English champions the 22-year-old has fired in a total of seven shots – 2, 2, 3 – and all of those were from outside the box and interestingly only three from free kicks – so he is not dependent on those set piece situations to try his luck.
None were on target – but that doesn’t matter for the bet I like with Ladbrokes which is for Trent Alexander-Arnold to have 1+ shots from outside the box at odds of 21/20. Those of you looking for an 11/2 shot Ladbrokes are offering that price for 2+ shots outside the box while Sky Bet go the same price for a TAA effort outside the area to be on target – both very much well within reason.
For my final selection I was drawn to Lyon centre back Jason Denayer who should slot into the middle of the Belgians usual three-man defence. Denayer featured in both the aforementioned UNL fixtures making 110 passes in the home game against Iceland where his side had 71% possession, making 79 in the visit to Denmark where the Belgians only saw 49% of the ball.
Welsh centre back Chris Mepham was allowed to rack up 79 passes from his sides 43% share of the ball at Wembley on Thursday night so if the visitors are allowed similar luxury in Sundays game fixture, we should see Denayer easily clear the line Ladbrokes have set of 70+ passes at 10/11.