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Verdict: Both teams score
Best odds: 7/10
Two European icons who will hope to open this year’s Nations League adventure with three points, Belgium will host the Netherlands on Friday night.
Starting with the hosts, while Belgium may have last been looked back on March 29 as they picked up a routine 3-0 win over Burkina Faso in a friendly match, it does not cover what has been an inconsistent race. Finally hit with a 2-1 defeat against Italy in their bronze medal showdown during the inaugural Nations League tournament last year, it appears there is pressure on Roberto Martínez’s shoulders. Including the signing of their World Cup qualifier with a 1-1 draw against Wales on foreign soil, the one-time Everton boss has seen his star-studded team win just a couple of their last six matches in all competitions. Like the Red Devils, when they suffered a 2-1 loss in the hands of the final winners, Italy at last year’s European Championships, have shown some long-standing problems in the back. Despite having hosted a number of attacking superstars, it should be emphasized that Friday’s hosts have only mustered a single clean sheet over the past nine months.
Following his Man of the Match display in last weekend’s Champions League win against Liverpool, Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois should start between the posts here.
Similarly, despite being left as an unused sub in Paris, Eden Hazard should join Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku in attack.
As for the visitors who managed to end their eight-year absence from the World Cup finals last year, the Netherlands have really found their legs since picking up Louis van Gaal back 10 months ago. After signing their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win at home against Norway, the former Manchester United boss also saw his first place in Group G. Last seen back in March, he played a 1-1 draw against former world champions Germany, the Oranges are in the middle in a remarkable purple spot. In a race that also led them to win an action-packed 4-2 victory against Denmark in a friendly match earlier this year, the Netherlands are undefeated in each of their last nine matchups across all formats. If the European giants are to make it to foreign soil here, van Gaal can call on Tottenham’s outcast Steven Bergwijn to head their charge. The former PSV man has found the net in his last three internationals for Friday’s guests.
After playing a full 90 minutes in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat last weekend, defensive star Virgil van Dijk was able to get a well-deserved rest here.
Barcelona’s Memphis Depay was to be joined on Friday night by teammate and midfield superstar Frenkie de Jong.
Key factors to consider
- Despite winning a 3-0 victory over Burkina Faso in a friendly on March 29, it is only the second victory Belgium have picked up from their last six matches.
- Likewise, The Red Devils have also recorded a single clean sheet from any of their last six appearances.
- The Netherlands are unbeaten in each of their last nine matchups across all formats, a race that dates back to the last 12 months.
- Tottenham’s Steven Bergwijn has found the net in each of his last three internationals.
- Six of the last seven meetings between Friday’s opponents have ended, with both teams finding the net.
While Belgium may open Friday’s showdown tip as an excellent choice, the Netherlands could smell the chance of causing disruption on foreign soil. When they ended their eight-year absence from the World Cup finals last year, van Gaal’s team has really found an immediate boost since bringing back the former Barcelona boss. With quickly gaining a reputation for their free-scoring displays in the final third, the Oranges will seek to monetize a Belgian site that has shown some recent problems. The Red Devils only managed to win a couple of their previous six outings – including stalemates against Ireland and Wales – here they can come to a rigorous test. In a competition that could see chances at both ends of the field, it should be highlighted that the Netherlands and Belgium have a habit of producing fireworks when they meet. With six of their last seven meetings concluded where both teams found the net, we back up a similar result here.
Verdict: Both teams score
Best odds: 7/10