Belgium coach Roberto Martinez on Monday revealed that the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and possibly Romelu Lukaku may be rested for their final Russia 2018 group stage match against England.
England and Belgium are already through to the round of 16, thereby reducing the competitiveness of the tie, as Martinez described the game on Thursday in Kaliningrad as almost a celebration for both sides.
“It’s different. If we’d been facing each other to qualify for the World Cup knock-out phase it would have been a lot more emotional,” the Spaniard said.
“It’s a game that we can celebrate and enjoy. There’s a lot of sensations in both camps and both nations going into the knock-out phase.
“So I don’t think the game will be emotional in that respect. I think it’ll be almost a celebration.”
Martinez also hinted that players who had already received yellow cards may play no part in the game. to prevent them from picking another that would rule them out of the round of 16 encounter.
“It would be risky and a real gamble to play any of the players who have yellow cards because you don’t want a player missing in the knock-out stage,” he said.
De Bruyne, Thomas Meunier and Jan Vertonghen are already on a yellow each. while Lukaku appeared to pick a knock in the game against Tunisia. The scan on Lukaku revealed no major damage. although more time was required to assess the Man United forward.
The game will decide the winner of the group. Martinez spoke further:
“Every game we want to win, I don’t think as a professional you can go on a pitch without wanting to win,” he said.
“We’re looking to do well and make ourselves stronger as a squad against England.”
Martinez predicted that it would be an open and entertaining encounter in Kaliningrad.
“I think it’s going to be an open game,” he said.
“Both teams will try to press each other very high and try to win the ball and dictate play.
“You’re not going to see a team sitting back and allowing the opposition to play.”