Belgium and Wales get their Euro 2020 campaign underway on Saturday, and here we look at their prospects at the tournament as well as focusing on Michy Batshuayi and Ethan Ampadu, two Blues who spent the past season out on loan…
Belgium – Group B
The number one team in the FIFA World Rankings and littered with world-class players, Belgium start Euro 2020 as one of the favourites.
Inspired by Eden Hazard, they reached the semi-finals in Russia three years ago and were beaten quarter-finalists at Euro 2016. Is this the tournament the Red Devils’ ‘Golden Generation’ goes all the way?
Belgium have the disadvantage of playing two games, against Russia and Denmark, at their opponents’ home stadium.
On paper Roberto Martinez’s side should top the group, but Denmark are fancied by many as ‘dark horses’, Russia proved at the World Cup they are tough to beat on home soil, and Finland’s debut appearance at a major tournament will be unpredictable. They are likely to look to Iceland’s exploits at Euro 2016 for inspiration.
Michy Batshuayi has been a proven goalscorer at international level in recent years, scoring 22 times in his 34 appearances since debuting in 2015.
Romelu Lukaku is expected to lead the line, but Batshuayi will hope to offer goalscoring instincts off the bench or perhaps for the third group game if Belgium’s fate is secure.
As well as Hazard and Lukaku, two more former Blues – Thibuat Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne – will no doubt feature prominently, the latter recovering well from the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final.
Belgium vs Russia, Saint Petersburg, Saturday 12 June, 8pm
Belgium vs Denmark, Copenhagen, Thursday 17 June, 5pm
Belgium vs Finland, Saint Petersburg, Monday 21 June 8pm
If Belgium win their group, they will play a third-placed qualifier.
If Belgium finish runners-up in their group, they will play the runner-up of Group A (Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Wales).
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Bruges), Mats Selz (Strasbourg)
Defenders: Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Jason Denayer (Lyon)
Midfielders: Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Bruges)
Forwards: Dries Mertens (Napoli), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Wales – Group A
Shock semi-finalists at Euro 2016, a repeat performance would be considered a huge success for the side led by caretaker manager Robert Page.
The bedrock of their success in France was team cohesion, defensive solidity and a sprinkling of stardust, and they will try to sit deep and hurt their opponents on the counter-attack using the pace of the likes of Gareth Bale and Daniel James.
Group A looks tough. Italy are a good, well-rounded side, Turkey usually overperform at major tournaments, and Switzerland remain solid if unspectacular. Wales’ first game is against the Swiss, in Baku, and getting off to a positive start could be crucial if they want to make it through the group stage.
Despite his tender years, Ethan Ampadu has already racked up 23 appearances for Wales and is expected to start against Switzerland on the right side of a back three.
The 20-year-old has also featured at centre-back and in central midfield for his country since making his debut in 2017, and Ampadu has earned plenty of plaudits for his composed and dominant performances in a Wales shirt.
Wales v Switzerland, Baku, Saturday 12 June, 2pm
Wales v Turkey, Baku, Wednesday 16 June, 5pm
Wales v Italy, Rome, Sunday 20 June, 5pm
If Wales win their group, they will play the runner-up of Group C (Holland, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia).
If Wales finish runners-up in their group, they will play the runners-up of Group B (Belgium, Russia, Denmark, Finland).
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Daniel Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City)
Defenders: Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Sheffield United), Neco Williams (Liverpool), Connor Roberts (Swansea City), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town)
Midfielders: Joe Allen (Stoke City), Joe Morrell (Luton Town), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Jonathan Williams (Cardiff City), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Harry Wilson (Liverpool), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City)
Forwards: Tyler Roberts (Leeds United), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Daniel James (Manchester United)