Euro 2016 Fantasy Preview: Belgium
Belgium look to have a fantastic chance at the Euros and much of the pre-tournament hype has revolved around their ‘Golden Generation’ and the embarrassment of riches that manager Marc Wilmots has at his disposal. However, losing skipper Vincent Kompany to injury was a major set-back and with fellow defender Nicolas Lombaerts also missing out, there are certainly question marks about the Red Devils back-line.
The Belgium boss also needs to decide if he is happy with the form of Romelu Lukaku, who lost his way in the second half of the season, as well as whether to include the much-maligned Maroune Fellaini in his preferred starting XI.
Likely tactics and formation
Wilmots could go with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and there’s a good chance that he will switch between the two, depending on the opposition. If he goes with the 3-man midfield Fellaini is likely to be included at the expense of Mousa Dembélé and Dries Mertens with Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard deployed in the wide attacking positions. If he opts for the 4-2-3-1 De Bruyne will more than likely operate as a number 10 with Mertens and Hazard playing either side of him behind the lone striker.
Belgium face Italy in their opener and Wilmots will surely be concerned about the Azzurri out-numbering them in midfield so Fellaini may well start the tournament.
Alex Witsel will dictate the tempo of Belgium’s play from a deep-lying midfield role alongside the industrious Radja Nainggolan, who, like Fellaini, should be easy to spot.
Thibaut Courtois will be looking to put a disappointing English domestic season behind him. The Chelsea stopper only made 23 league appearances for a Blues side that conceded over 50 goals, surrendering their Premier League title far too easily.
Simon Mignolet has his critics but he has plenty of international experience and is more than capable of deputising if needed.
The Belgium defence presents fantasy football managers with a real conundrum. The brilliant Spurs centre-back pairing of Jan Verthongen and Toby Alderweireld are both, incredibly, likely to start as full-backs. The Tottenham duo are very strong aerially making them interesting propositions for fantasy managers but the fact that they are likely to be given more licence to roam forward in their full-back roles certainly increases their potential upside.
Jason Denayor and Thomas Vermaelen are lkely to fill in at centre-back with cover along the back-line provided by Laurent Ciman, Christain Kabasele, Thomas Meunier and Jordan Lukaku.
Naingollan is a real box to box midfielder and one to watch but all eyes will be on Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder will be a threat from wherever he is deployed and if the Red Devils are to put in a serious challenge, De Bruyne is almost certain to play a key role.
What plans Jose Mourinho has for Fellaini is anybody’s guess but a good championship might just help to kick-start his stuttering Manchester United career.
The fact that Mousa Dembélé, who finished the season as Tottenham’s highest rated player on WhoScored, will struggle to get into the side is testament to how strong this Belgium midfield is. Mertens and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco are two other players that would be certain starters, if they represented many of the other participating nations.
Lukaku should start in the opener but if he fails to produce there are plenty of other striking options available to Wilmots.
Divock Origi, who burst onto the scene at the 2014 World Cup finals, finished the season well for Liverpool, which cannot be said for Christian Benteke, who may count himself a tad fortunate to have made the squad.
Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi could be one to watch as well if he manages to secure some game time.
Origi and Mertens looks the two most likely to make an impact from the bench but the likes of Dembélé and Ferreira Carrasco have too much ability to be sat kicking their heels for too long at the finals.
Eden Hazard will captain the side and he’s likely to take any spot kicks that come their way.
However, the majority of Belgium’s set-pieces are likely to be taken by De Bruyne, adding to his overall appeal, so ‘The Ginger Pele’ is almost certain to feature on thousands of fantasy football team-sheets!