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Mar 24, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
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Preview: Belgium vs. Wales - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Belgium vs. Wales - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's World Cup 2022 qualifier between Belgium and Wales, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Belgium will be seeking some revenge against Wales when they kick off their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign at Den Dreef in Leuven on Wednesday evening.

The Red Devils are ranked number one in the world, but they have famously failed to beat Group E opponents Wales in recent encounters.

Match preview

The highest profile of those recent meetings between these sides came at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016, a game which Wales won 3-1 to stun the watching world.

Wales had also defeated Belgium on home soil in the qualifying campaign, while also holding them to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture in Brussels.

Indeed, the Dragons are unbeaten in four against Belgium and enter this latest tussle in good shape - on the field at least - after going 11 competitive games without defeat.

After qualifying for this summer's rescheduled Euro 2020, Wales followed that up with an unbeaten Nations League campaign that earned them promotion to the top tier of groups.

The Dragons have been without boss Ryan Giggs for their last few games, and will be for at least their next three, as he remains under investigation due to an assault allegation.

Rob Page stepped up in November and guided his side to wins over Republic of Ireland and Finland, following on from a goalless friendly draw with the United States.

This showdown with Belgium is the toughest of tests, however, with the Red Devils ranked the number one country in the world.

That is down to their incredible consistency, losing just three of their last 50 matches, the most recent of those losses coming against England in October.

The ultimate aim for Belgium will be to win the Euros, though the longer-term target is to not only reach Qatar 2022 but also win the competition.

A golden age of Belgian football is thriving and Roberto Martinez will be desperate to keep the feel-good factor alive, but the Red Devils know nothing can be taken for granted against Wales.

Belgium form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Wales form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Team News

Belgium thought they were going to be without leading goalscorer Romelu Lukaku for this match following a coronavirus outbreak at Inter Milan, but he joined up with his teammates on Monday and should therefore be available to start.

Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard is once again absent from the squad because of another injury, while Axel Witsel is also sidelined for the long term, forcing Martinez into a central midfield shuffle.

The Red Devils are blessed with depth pretty much in every position, none more so than in defence, where Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Jason Denayer are likely to get the nod in a back five.

As for Wales, they will once again be without Aaron Ramsey because of an injury sustained with club side Juventus last week.

The Dragons have picked up wins in Ramsey's absence in the recent past, though, and Page also now has the bonus of Joe Allen's return to the squad for the first time since 2019.

Wayne Hennessey picked up an injury for Wales in October that kept him out of action until last month, but he has proved his fitness for Crystal Palace Under-23s and should therefore be okay to start on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale is expected to feature for the visitors, but fellow Tottenham Hotspur player Ben Davies withdrew from the squad on Tuesday, so Ethan Ampadu will slot into the backline.

Belgium possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Chadli, Dendoncker, Tielemans, Hazard; Mertens, De Bruyne; Lukaku

Wales possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Mepham, Rodon, Ampadu; Roberts, Allen, Morrell, Norrington-Davies; Bale, Moore, James

We say: Belgium 2-1 Wales

Wales have a great recent record against Belgium and enter this game unbeaten in 11 competitive matches since June 2019.

However, the Red Devils will be eager to get their latest qualifying campaign off to a winning start and, blessed with the options Martinez has available, we can see them coming out on top on Wednesday.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data

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