Belgium begins its quest for Euro 2020 glory on Sunday with a clash against Russia in St. Petersburg, but could do so without two key stars.
Kevin De Bruyne required surgery to repair facial injuries sustained in the Champions League final last month and will miss this game at least, while Eden Hazard is unlikely to make it despite taking part in training.
The Real Madrid star came off the bench in Belgium’s last friendly against Croatia, with coach Roberto Martinez admitting he “needs to be on the pitch, in a match scenario” to reach full readiness.
The De Bruyne injury especially leaves Belgium’s midfield depleted, with Borussia Dortmund’s Axel Witsel also ruled out of this game.
The defence, though, is fully operational, with Martinez’s first-choice back three likely to be Toby Alderweireld, Jason Denayer and Jan Vertonghen for the majority of the tournament.
Timothy Castagne enjoyed a successful first Premier League campaign with Leicester City and should start right-wing back alongside teammate Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker in midfield, with Nacer Chadli on the left.
In Eden’s absence, younger brother Thorgan could start on the left of the front three and, together with Dries Mertens, in support of Romelu Lukaku up top.
The country’s all-time leading goal scorer, Lukaku approaches the tournament on the back of the season of his career so far, with 24 goals and 11 assists in Inter’s Serie A-winning campaign.
The Red Devils were stunned by Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, but bounced back to end up as the third-placed team at the 2018 World Cup.
Martinez will be eying a deep run in the tournament and a first major trophy for the nation, beginning with their group stage opener this weekend.