Belgium will bid to make a flying start to their World Cup qualification campaign when they host Wales in Leuven on Thursday.
Roberto Martinez’s men are currently top of the world rankings after displaying consistently impressive form over the past few years. They just finished top of a UEFA Nations League group that also featured Denmark, England and Iceland, and they had a 100% record in their qualification campaign for the Euros.
Belgium’s squad is packed full of world-class players, and they should have enough firepower to get the better of Wales this week.
One notable absence will be Eden Hazard. The former Chelsea forward has spent months on the treatment table at Real Madrid, and he is currently out injured. However, his brother Thorgan has impressed for Borussia Dortmund this season, and he is included in the squad.
Martinez called up Romelu Lukaku, but he may not feature, as his Inter Milan squad is currently quarantined after two players tested positive for Covid-19. If he misses out, Michy Batshuayi or Christian Benteke could start up front, or Martinez could play Dries Mertens in a central role.
The star of the show is invariably Kevin De Bruyne. The Man City playmaker is peerless in his ability to create chances, dictate the pace of a game and generally boss a midfield with his individual brilliance. He has even played as a false nine for the Premier League leaders at times this season, giving Martinez another option in attack.
Fellow midfielder Youri Tielemans has been in terrific form for Leicester this term, so Belgium should win the battle for supremacy in the middle of the park. Wales will be without Aaron Ramsey, their best midfielder, and Belgium should dominate possession.
Wales’ chances of success generally hinge upon the form of Gareth Bale. The Real Madrid man endured a tough start to life on loan at Tottenham this season, but he has sprung to life in recent weeks. Bale was scoring for fun until the North London derby, but he has been quiet since that defeat.
Daniel James is also quick and direct in attack, so Belgium’s defenders will have their work cut out on Thursday. Veterans Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are not exactly blessed with bags of pace, but Martinez often plays Thorgan Hazard and Nacer Chadli as wing-backs, which could help nullify the threat of Bale and James.
Belgium have won their last eight home games, and they really should ease to victory against Wales this week. The best available price on a Belgium win is 1/3 (1.33) at Betfred. That could work for an accumulator, but you would need to look for another option in order to gain real value.
Belgium -1.5 Asian handicap looks pretty appealing at even money (2.00) with Bet365. Belgium beat Denmark and England by two clear goals in their last two games, and both of those teams are arguably superior to Wales. In fact, Belgium have won each of their last eight home games by two or more goals, so that could be the best option on Thursday.