Roberto Martinez’s men return to Brussels tonight, after an absence of eight months, to face Greece in a friendly match ahead of the 2020 Euros. There won’t be any fans in the stadium and also absent will be Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. The only certainty to start is Club Brugge’s Simon Mignolet.
Thibaut Courtois will be having a rest while Martinez will want to have a look at options to replace Witsel and De Bruyne – and possibly others – when Belgium line-up against Russia on June 12 in St Petersburg. Witsel is not yet certain to travel to the Euros, while De Bruyne looks set to miss the opening game. Then there is the case of Eden Hazard, who is unlikely to start either of the two warm-up games due to concerns over fitness.
Martinez has already called up Anderlecht’s Albert Sambi Lokonga, Standard’s Zinho Vanheusden and Club Brugge’s Brandon Mechele as possible replacements in the ‘26’if Witsel has to withdraw from the squad. Sambi Lokonga could well start tonight as a direct replacement for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder. Atletico’s Yannick Carrasco has had an excellent season and he will be a vital player in the event that Eden Hazard does not reach peak fitness in the next few weeks.
With the numerous absences of senior players, Martinez has said that the choice of captain will be a surprise. That could rule out a starting place for Romelu Lukaku – and a run for Crystal Palace’s in-form striker Christian Benteke – as giving the Inter man the captaincy would hardly count as a shock. Maybe it’s a chance for Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld to have the armband. He has 107 caps and only Jan Vertonghen (resting) and Witsel have more appearances for the national team.