On Tuesday, Roberto Martinez will announce his squad for the friendly match against the Czech Republic in Brussels and the World Cup qualifying match in Estonia. The most interesting names will be Monaco’s new midfielder Youri Tielemans and his former Anderlecht team-mate Leander Dendoncker.
The two youngsters will bring vitality and youthful vigour to Martinez’s ageing midfield. That area of the team has always been Belgium’s strength but when the World Cup comes around next year, it will be a decade since the Belgian youngsters burst on to the scene at the Olympics.
By the time the World Cup squads leave Russia, Mousa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini, Kevin Mirallas and Radja Nainggolan will have joined Dries Mertens in the over-30 club while Axel Witsel and Kevin Mirallas will only be months away from that landmark.
Add to that the defensive trio of Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen who have already passed 30 and the next World Cup begins to look very important.
All the above are expected to be named in Martinez’s squad tomorrow, and it’s likely that Kompany will go straight back in to the team. The Manchester City captain would probably be happier in a back four but it’s hardly a critical decision with Estonia on the horizon.
As well as Dembélé, Thomas Meunier and Jordan Lukaku will miss the games though injury. Players such as Mertens, Eden Hazard, Nainggolan, Courtois and Romelu Lukaku have had excellent seasons and it will be a strong squad that Martinez announces.
I think Vermaelen will be named despite lack of game time this season, while given Mertens’ form for Napoli, Martinez could leave out one of his four main strikers, possibly Divock Origi.
Keepers: Courtois, Mignolet, Casteels
Defenders: Kompany, Vertonghen, Lombaerts, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Ciman, Meunier, Kabasele, Foket
Midfield: Witsel, Chadli, Fellaini, Nainggolan, T. Hazard, Carrasco, De Bruyne, Tielemans, Dendoncker
Forwards: Benteke, Lukaku, Batshuayi, E. Hazard, Mirallas, Mertens
Other options and those who could miss out
Celtic’s Dedryck Boyata could be named rather than Gent’s Thomas Foket or Watford’s Christian Kabasele, while others that are unlikely to make the cut are: Nic Lombaerts (joining Oostende next season), Burnley’s Steven Defour, Sven Kums (who could join Anderlecht after disappointing in Serie A), Sampdoria’s Dennis Praet, Club Brugge’s Bjorn Engels, Newcastle United’s Matz Sels – now third in the club’s pecking order – and the young Landry Dimata (Oostende’s striker is one for the future).