Belgium will look to end the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers campaign on a high when they welcome Azerbaijan to the King Baudouin Stadium on Sunday.
The second week of the last international break of 2024 is upon us, with the first stage of the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers rounding off. One of the early fixtures on Sunday will see Belgium hosting Azerbaijan at the King Baudouin Stadium, with the hosts through to next summer’s finals.
The Domenico Tedesco era for Belgium has started well, even though they have not been faultless thus far. The Red Devils are unbeaten in the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers, winning five of their seven outings (D2). And while they come into their final game of the campaign second in Group F, they can leapfrog Austria and clinch the top spot with a win on Sunday.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan cannot clinch an automatic qualification berth at UEFA Euro 2024. But they still have hopes of sealing a spot in the playoffs, although those chances are slimming with every passing game. But Gianni De Biasi’s men come into Sunday’s clash on the back of a 3-0 drubbing of Sweden this week.
The reverse fixture saw Belgium clinch a narrow 1-0 win over Azerbaijan at Dalga Arena, with Yannick Carrasco scoring the match-winning goal. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
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UPDATE: Amadou Onana will leave the camp with a calf injury. pic.twitter.com/BRNBfsaOyH
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) November 17, 2023
Domenico Tedesco has a new injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Amadou Onana has pulled out from the squad after picking up a calf injury. The 22-year-old is the second player to withdraw from the group after Zinho Vanheusden.
Meanwhile, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne are the notable long-term absentees, with the duo recovering from their respective issues. In De Bruyne’s absence, Romelu Lukaku is the leader for the home side.
Lukaku should spearhead the attack against Azerbaijan, with Belgium lining up in a 4-3-3 formation this weekend. The in-form duo of Jeremy Doku and Leandro Trossard should be the two wide attackers, with the pair taking on the visitors’ backline with their directness.
As for the midfield unit, Orel Mangala will hold the fort in front of the backline, with Youri Tielemans and Yannick Carrasco completing the numbers in the middle of the park. Matz Sels will take his spot between the sticks, with Timothy Castagne, Arthur Theate, Wout Faes, and Jan Vertonghen forming the defensive quartet.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Sels; Castagne, Faes, Vertonghen, Theate; Tielemans, Mangala, Carrasco; Doku, Lukaku, Trossard
Unlike his counterpart in the Belgian dugout, Gianni De Biasi has not lost any players during the ongoing international break. But Azerbaijan’s head coach has made a few changes to the squad he had picked in the international break last month.
Azerbaijan will line up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with the onus being on Renat Dadashov to produce the goods in the final third. Meanwhile, Shakhruddin Mehemmedeliyev will take his spot between the sticks.
Rahil Mammadov and Elvin Cafarguliyev will be the two full-backs. The duo needs to remain compact to protect the centre-backs and rob Belgium of open spaces around the box. Anton Kryvotsyuk and Hojjat Haghverdi should be the two centre-backs.
Up ahead in midfield, Cosqun Diniyev and Aleksey Isayev will look to keep things tight in the middle of the park. The duo will protect the backline while initiating quick transitions. That will bring the two wide attackers, Toral Bayramov and Musa Qurbanli, into the picture. Finally, captain Emin Mahmudov will play behind the central striker, Dadashov, on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Mehemmedeliyev; Mammadov, Kryvotsyuk, Haghverdi, Cafarguliyev; Bayramov, Diniyev, Isayev, Qurbanli; Mahmudov; Dadashov
- Belgium are yet to lose a game in five meetings with Azerbaijan, winning four of those fixtures (D1). The Red Devils have kept three clean sheets while only conceding two goals.
- Head-to-head meetings between Domenico Tedesco and Gianni De Biasi have gone one way, with the former winning the only meeting 1-0.
- Belgium are on a ten-game unbeaten run, winning seven of those fixtures, with three matches ending in a stalemate.
- Azerbaijan have failed to find the back of the net in their last three defeats. But they have not conceded more than once in their most recent six outings.
- Domenico Tedesco is unbeaten as Belgium’s head coach, winning seven of the nine games he has overseen (D2).
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Things are starting to improve for Romelu Lukaku, who has been in fine form for AS Roma. In addition, the 30-year-old remains a talismanic figure for Belgium and has started scoring goals for fun again. And Sunday’s game will give him the opportunity to make a splash again and end the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers on a high.
Belgium 2-0 Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s defensive output has improved considerably in the last few months. No longer are Gianni De Biasi’s men conceding cheap goals. But Belgium will present a significantly different challenge, with Domenico Tedesco bringing the best out of him. Another eye-catching display is on the cards, with the home side clinching a 2-0 win and the visitors giving a good account of themselves.