Nov 15, 2020 at 7.45pm UK
Tielemans (10'), Mertens (23')
Witsel (44'), Alderweireld (51'), Meunier (54')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Combined XI: Belgium vs. England

:Headline: Combined XI: Belgium vs. England: ID:422079: from db_amp
Ahead of Sunday's Nations League clash between Belgium and England, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads.

A pivotal encounter in the Nations League this Sunday sees Belgium play host to England on matchday five in League A Group 2, with both sides in with a shout of making the finals.

The Red Devils currently sit atop the group with nine points from a possible 12, and victory for Roberto Martinez's men - the number-one ranked side in the world - would see them take a giant stride towards qualifying for the Nations League finals while dashing England's chances of doing so in the process.

England are two points adrift of their weekend opponents in third - with Denmark sandwiched in between the two sides heading into the final round of group matches - and Gareth Southgate must steer his side to victory if the Three Lions are to keep any hopes of finishing top alive.

Belgium warmed up for this encounter with a 2-1 victory over Switzerland in a midweek friendly, while England also triumphed in their warm-up game for this imperative match, beating the Republic of Ireland 3-0 at Wembley.

However, these two European powerhouses will both be without some big-name players owing to injuries and coronavirus cases, and with that in mind, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads, using only players available for the showdown.

Both Belgium and England rested their number one shot stoppers in midweek, with Simon Mignolet enjoying a run-out for Belgium and Nick Pope and Dean Henderson both playing 45 minutes each against Ireland. However, victory is of paramount importance for both sides in this game and the two managers will call upon their most reliable shot-stoppers for Sunday. Jordan Pickford is still Southgate's first-choice keeper, but the Everton man continues to divide opinion after several high-profile errors. Thibaut Courtois has not been immune from criticism either, but the decorated Real Madrid man gets the nod in our team.

England will have to make do without arguably their three best centre-backs for this crucial game. Harry Maguire is suspended after seeing red against Denmark, Joe Gomez is injured and Conor Coady has been forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who was COVID-positive. However, Kyle Walker is fit and raring to go for this game and makes our team over fellow Englishmen Michael Keane and Tyrone Mings - both of whom are in with a shout of starting given the plethora of injuries.

Belgium's Jason Denayer has established himself as a key component of the Lyon defence and the former Manchester City man is sure to make the first XI for the visit of England, with Denayer lining up alongside stalwart Toby Alderweireld to complete our three-man defence. Belgium's most-capped player - Jan Vertonghen - just misses out, as does his national teammate Dedryck Boyata.

England's quality all over the pitch is unquestionable, but the Three Lions are blessed with numerous talents on the right-hand side, although Southgate's options for this game are limited. Trent Alexander-Arnold joins Liverpool teammate Gomez on the treatment table, Reece James is suspended, and the defensively-sound Aaron Wan-Bissaka did not make the squad for November's fixtures. The only two realistic options for this position were Thomas Meunier and Kieran Tripper - both of whom are out-and-out starters for Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid respectively - and Tripper edges out Meunier and England teammate Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make our team.

On the opposite side of the midfield, Eden Hazard would have been a shoo-in for this team, but the Real Madrid man was forced to withdraw after testing positive for coronavirus. Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka put in a man-of-the-match performance against Ireland and fans are excited to see how the 19-year-old develops over the next few years, but Chelsea's Ben Chilwell already has two goals and three assists in blue and is an easy selection for this combined XI.

Another man who has impressed for a Premier League side this season is Belgium's Youri Tielemans, who has played every minute of Leicester City's charge to the top of the table after eight matches. The 23-year-old already has a trio of goals in the 2020-21 English top flight and is sure to be called upon by Martinez from the first whistle here, so Tielemans gets into our team alongside Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, whose importance to the middle of the park for both club and country cannot be understated. The Premier League-winning Englishman occupies a spot in midfield over the likes of Dennis Praet, Axel Witsel and Declan Rice.

As we move further up the field, the number 10 role could only be filled by one man. Not even Kevin De Bruyne has been immune from the effects of the unforgiving fixture schedule, but the 29-year-old already boasts one goal and seven assists in all competitions for Manchester City this season and was a straightforward selection for this team. Jack Grealish impressed in an England shirt once again against Ireland, and Mason Mount's talent is evident, but the pair lose out here to De Bruyne, who also beats national teammate Dries Mertens and the injured Yannick Carrasco to a spot.

Belgium and England could both line-up with a sole striker in a 3-4-2-1 formation, but it was impossible to leave both Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku out of this XI. Kane's stats speak for themselves; the Tottenham Hotspur talisman boasts a remarkable 13 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for Spurs this season and will need to stay fit if Tottenham are to mount a title charge this season. Kane's inclusion means there are no spaces in the team for Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho or Dominic Calvert-Lewin, with Lukaku's resurgence in Italy difficult to ignore.

Lukaku - also Belgium's highest goalscorer of all time - has found his goalscoring touch again since moving to Inter Milan from Manchester United and has already hit the back of the net seven times for the Nerazzurri this season. Lukaku has also scored a trio of goals in the Nations League and beats Crystal Palace duo Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi - the latter of whom notched up both strikes in midweek - to the final spot in our team.

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