Belgium are set to face Russia at the Maracana stadium where both teams are looking to gain a substantial advantage at a very open group. The Belgians will be looking for a win that will definitely send them to the next round but anything less could set Group H on fire.
The Red Devils’ manager Marc Wilmots is expected to make a few changes in his starting line-up after his side struggled to beat Algeria. Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini is expected to start instead of Tottenham Hotspur’s Nacer Chadli and Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen could replace Daniel Van Buyten.
Captain Vincent Kompany is suffering from a minor groin strain and it is unclear whether Wilmots will start another striker or maintain trust on Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku who was ineffective last week.
Russia failed to impress against South Korea and a blunder by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev almost cost them the match. Eventually, Zenit striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov bailed his side out and might have earned himself a spot at Fabio Capello’s starting line-up.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 5pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS:
Russia 0 Belgium 2 (Lukaku 2), International Friendly, November 2010
Belgium 3 (Walem, Sonck, Wilmots) Russia 2 (Beschastnykh, Sychev), World Cup, June 2002
Belgium 0 Russia 0, International Friendly, April 1996
Russia have never beaten Belgium whereas the latter have won two out of their three meetings.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has never experienced international defeat but has instead contributed in 11 wins and seven draws. Atletico Madrid’s on-loan stopper kept 10 clean sheets in 18 matches.
Belgium have only won two of their last 10 World Cup matches and lost three. They have only kept one clean sheet in the same amount of games.
The Red Devils are undefeated in their last two World Cup group stages, which took place in 1998 and 2002.
Russia have scored all of their last eight World Cup goals after half-time.
Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev’s blunder last week took place on the same day, just a few hours earlier, as Rob Green’s gaffe four years ago when Fabio Capello was his manager.
Belgium to win: Evens
Russia to win: 16.5
TV: Live on BBC One at 5pm