5 key battles that could decide England’s Nations League tussle with Belgium

Star-studded England and Belgium outfits will meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening to contest a showpiece Nations League fixture that promises to deliver action and entertainment by the bucketful.

The European big-hitters last met at World Cup 2018 in Russia, where an Eden Hazard inspired Belgium beat the Three Lions to a third-place finish in a play-off between the beaten semi-finalists that finished 2-0 in Les Diables Rouges’ favour.

Both England and Belgium have been in formidable form since their Russian rendezvous two years ago, and in a battle between two confident sides this weekend, the outcome of individual skirmishes between the players involved will be key in deciding who comes out on top.

With that in mind, we’ve taken a closer look at some of those potentially crucial head-to-heads ahead of the weekend’s Nations League action.

Remember – you can find a more comprehensive analysis of the game with our expert’s betting tips in our England vs Belgium predictions.

Declan Rice vs Kevin de Bruyne

West Ham anchorman Declan Rice started his club campaign in typically robust fashion for the Irons, and his 2.3 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per game averages in the Premier League so far show just how powerful a disruptive force he can be.

Rice will have to be right on top of his game to limit the influence of Belgian midfield supremo Kevin de Bruyne however.

The 29-year-old’s on-field invention is almost unparalleled, and de Bruyne claimed two assists in his last Nations League appearance for Belgium in their huge 5-1 triumph against Iceland.

Raheem Sterling vs Timothy Castagne

Like many of the players featured in our key battles rundown, Raheem Sterling and Timothy Castagne will be familiar Premier League antagonists this season, though the Belgian got the better of the Man City star when they faced off at the end of Septmber.

On a rotten day for the Citizens, Sterling and City were trounced 5-2 by a rampant Leicester at the Etihad Stadium, where flying fullback Castagne set up Jamie Vardy for the second of his three goals.

The 24-year-old ex-Atalanta star will hope to make a similar impact for his country against England this weekend, though Sterling – who notched five goals in his last seven Three Lions appearances – has some scores to settle.

Harry Maguire England

Harry Maguire vs Romelu Lukaku

Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku were officially Manchester United teammates for three days last year before the Belgian secured his money-spinning exit to Inter in Italy, though their meeting on Sunday is unlikely to be a reunion between old friends.

Lukaku was regularly lampooned in his last season in the Premier League, though the prolific striker has since gone on to restore his reputation in Serie A. The 27-year-old – who hammed home an incredible 27 goals in his last 27 appearances for his country – will be desperate to showcase his skills against his old tormentors.

Maguire has had to absorb plenty of criticism of his own this season after some dreadful performances for Man Utd, though a strong showing in a tough game could repair some of his lost confidence.

Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Eden Hazard

Liverpool’s Trent-Alexander-Arnold is one of football’s most productive fullbacks, and his ability to carve open defences with his wand of a right foot makes him a potent supplier of chances for the Merseyside giants.

There are question marks about the 22-year-old’s ability to perform the less glamorous, more traditional parts of a defender’s game however, and Alexeander-Arnold’s defensive nous is certain to be stretched by the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard.

While Hazard continues to flounder with Real Madrid in Spain, the wing wizard remains an integral part of Roberto Martinez’s Belgian machine, and keen to remind the watching world of his ability, the 29-year-old is a danger man worth keeping an eye on.

Harry Kane vs Toby Alderweireld

Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld know each other’s games upside down and inside out having spent years together as team mates with Tottenham Hotspur, though the pair will cast club allegiances aside when they line up in direct opposition at Wembley on Sunday.

With eight goals and seven assists in his last seven appearances for Spurs, Kane comes into England’s clash with Belgium in devastating form, and having witnessed the centre-forward’s performances first hand, Alderweireld will know that he faces a striker in the midst of a prolific purple-patch.

The Belgian centre-half will hope to lean on some of his insider knowledge to help keep Kane under wraps, though Alderweireld will need assistance from his defensive teammates to negate the marksman’s influence for 90 minutes.

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