Belgium opened their Nations League group with two wins last month, while England collected four points. Belgium, the top-ranked team in the world that twice beat England in the 2018 World Cup, will be without the injured Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens in an empty Wembley stadium. Mertens is stranded in Italy due to coronavirus regulations. Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham are back in contention for England after missing a 3-0 friendly win over Wales on Thursday. They were declared healthy after violating national pandemic guidelines by attending a meeting with more than six people. Ben Chilwell was also there last weekend and remains absent with an illness unrelated to the coronavirus. England coach Gareth Southgate must decide to keep Jack Grealish on the side after a strong display to the left of a forward three. With Jordan Pickford looking far from assured in Everton’s goals, Southgate also has to decide whether or not to keep Nick Pope in the starting lineup after a clean sheet against Wales.
FRANCE vs PORTUGAL
The first place of the group is to be gained when France, winner of the World Cup, faces the European champion Portugal at the Stade de France. They are level after two wins. After recently overtaking Michel Platini to move to second place on France’s all-time scorers list with 42, Olivier Giroud can get closer to Thierry Henry’s national record of 51. But he is still far behind the total of 101 by Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal. The superstar will be determined to make up for a rare day of rest in front of goal in a 0-0 draw with Spain this week.
POLAND vs ITALY
Italy coach Roberto Mancini is likely to recall his regular players after fielding an experimental side in last week’s friendly against Moldova. Italy nevertheless won 6-0 with several players scoring their first international goal. However, Lazio forward Ciro Immobile, the Italian league’s top scorer last season, is expected to return to the starting lineup. Italy were held by Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1-1 in their Nations League opener, but went on to beat the Netherlands 1-0. The Azzurri have won 13 of their last 14 games.
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