Artur Petrosyan’s Belgium v Russia preview: compact Russia looking to frustrate
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Russia throughout Euro 2020
There is not much optimism in Russia ahead of the opening game at this Euros.
Belgium, who are currently world’s highest ranked team, won both matches in the qualifying tournament against Stanislav Cherchesov’s men, scoring seven goals without really turning on their full speed. Notably, the last game between them was played out at the same venue as next Saturday – St. Petersburg Arena, with the visitors enjoying a comfortable 4-1 win and goals coming from Lukaku and the Hazard brothers, with Eden scoring two.
So unlike last time, Russia will definitely have a much more conservative approach. There are not many doubts that Cherchesov will play a 5-3-1-1 formation with the first two blocks being as compact as possible.
With Kudryashov getting injured last week, Barinov, a natural midfielder, will most likely be situated alongside Dzhikiya and Semenov at centre-back. That, actually, could be a plus attacking-wise, as the 24-year-old Lokomotiv man is good at starting attacks from the back and that could come handy as the hosts are expected to send a lot of balls onto Dzyuba in their counter-attacks, which will be their default way to attack.
Belgium will have much more of the ball, will prevail in most components, including shots and corners, but it is to be seen how Roberto Martinez’s men will deal with Russia’s tight defence and constant pressing without the help of Kevin De Bruyne. Plus, the visitors are unlikely to go on all cylinders in their first game at the tournament so I’d say, if they win, it will probably be by just one goal.