Kaliningrad (Russia), June 27 (IANS) Both England and Belgium, who have secured their positions in the FIFA World Cup pre-quarterfinals, are expected to make changes to their starting line-up when they meet for their final Group G match here on Thursday night.
Both sides have already ensured progression to the next round, and both coaches have said they want to win the game despite the possibility of an easier quarterfinal tie for the side finishing second, reports Xinhua news agency.
Level on points, goal difference and goals scored, England currently top Group G thanks to having been shown one fewer yellow card than Belgium in their games against Tunisia and Panama. But with no amnesty on yellow cards until the semi-finals, it’s highly unlikely either side will go actively looking for them in order to help their cause for second place.
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku is an injury doubt after missing training on Monday and Tuesday after picking up a knock against Tunisia.
Coach Roberto Martinez is likely to rest Lukaku even if he is fit to play, explaining that the Manchester United forward knows the team is more important than individual accolades such as the Golden Boot.
Other key players such as defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen could also be rested, meaning they may miss the chance to go up against club teammate Harry Kane.
England coach Gareth Southgate is sending mixed messages over whether or not the striker, who has scored five goals so far in Russia, will start.
“He is the captain and he knows he will be judged on how far we go as a team. He wants to contribute to a winning team and he knows it is not as satisfying if you are a player scoring goals and the team does not win,” Southgate told Talksport on Tuesday.
A more likely scenario would be for Kane to start and then be replaced by Jamie Vardy in the second half. But there will be changes elsewhere, with Gary Cahill coming in at centre-back, Danny Rose starting at left-back and Fabian Delph making an appearance in midfield before a 48-hour round-trip to England to attend the birth of his third child.
Dele Alli could also make a return to action after missing the Panama match with a slight thigh strain, but with little pressure to secure a result against Belgium, he may be limited to an appearance off the bench.