Cristiano Ronaldo will be the man in the spotlight on Sunday, but Roberto Martinez says Belgium cannot afford to focus only on the Portugal star. 

Ronaldo tied Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals with a pair of penalties against France to send Portugal into the knockout stage of the European Championship. 

Still, Martinez insists Ronaldo will get no special attention in their last-16 clash. 

"When you put a plan against a specific player, you can be hurt by other players," the Belgium head coach told a news conference. "The way that Portugal plays, they’ve got a lot of threat, they’ve got a lot of pace in behind.

"Of course Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be the player that gets the right moment, the right pass and the right chance, and you have to be always aware, but you have to defend the 10 outfield players of Portugal in the same measure.

"We need to be compact, we need to be really solid, and we need to defend as a team.

"Obviously we always think about the opposition and that’s always the case, you need to have that information, but I think we’ve got real good momentum and that’s where we’re concentrating."

Belgium conceded only one goal across their three wins in the group stage, but their prime reason for optimism may rest in Kevin De Bruyne's successful return. 

After his swift recovery from facial fractures suffered in the Champions League final, the Manchester City star played nearly the entire game against Denmark after scoring in his return to action as a half-time substitute against Denmark. 

"Kevin, it’s been great to be able to see him 45 minutes and then almost the 90 minutes, so I feel that he is in the perfect physical condition to go into this game," Martinez said. 

"Kevin will have the normal role, an influential role. He’s not a player that needs to play in a certain position. We need to give him that opportunity to be the play-maker, to be able to link up to that possession that we have.

"We will have to be patient against a really good, resolute, and well-defensive-structured Portugal team, but I think we’re going to see ourselves doing what we always do."

All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo again on Sunday as he looks to become the outright world-record holder for international goals, though being out of the focus will do Portugal's opponents Belgium no harm.

The Juventus star tied Ali Daei's long-standing record of 109 goals with a pair of penalties in Portugal's thrilling 2-2 draw with France, the result ensuring the Selecao reached the knockout phase.

One more will put Ronaldo out in front, while he may also have designs on chasing down Michel Platini's record for the most goals scored in a single European Championship (nine in Euro 84).

But despite Ronaldo's five goals thus far, it has been by no means plain sailing for Portugal, whose four points was the poorest group-stage haul for a defending European champion since Greece in 2008 (zero).

 

Fernando Santos' men arguably could not have picked a stronger opponent to face next as they prepare to tussle with Belgium in Seville on Sunday, and while Portugal put their faith in Ronaldo, former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is a similarly talismanic figure for Roberto Martinez.

"Going to Inter was the perfect move, at the perfect time, with a perfect coach, with a perfect dream of winning the Serie A title," Martinez told ESPN.

"I think that has developed Lukaku to a level that is, for me, the best in his career. For me – and you know I am biased – he is the best striker in the world."

Since the 2018 World Cup concluded, Lukaku has 23 goals in 21 games across all competitions for Belgium and is just one shy of equalling his best return at a major tournament (four, 2018 World Cup).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne

As well as enthusing about Lukaku, Belgium coach Martinez has also declared midfielder De Bruyne to be the best in the world in his position – and few would disagree with that assertion. Although he has only played 134 minutes at Euro 2020, De Bruyne has had a hand in three of Belgium's seven goals (one goal, two assists). Add to that the fact his 71 chances created in major tournaments since the start of the 2014 World Cup is bettered by no European player, then perhaps it is Belgium who hold the trump card with De Bruyne, rather than Portugal with Ronaldo.

 

Portugal – Renato Sanches

Lille midfielder Sanches was brought into the team for the dropped Bruno Fernandes against France, and given how effective he was then, he will surely keep his place. Portugal really benefited from his well-rounded excellence: he made more ball recoveries than any other player on the pitch (eight), his three tackles was bettered by only Nelson Semedo among Portugal players and he was also key to their build-up play – his 38 passes in the opposing half was 11 more than any of his team-mates.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Ronaldo is now the top-scoring European player at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), with his double against France moving him beyond Miroslav Klose (19) to 21 goals. Indeed, that was Ronaldo's second brace of Euro 2020 already – no player has ever registered three in a single tournament at the European Championship.

- Belgium's victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup and Euros combined under Martinez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.

- Portugal have conceded six goals in three games at Euro 2020, already one more than they did at Euro 2016 when they went on to lift the trophy (five goals conceded in seven games). The last time Portugal conceded two or more goals in three consecutive games was in February 2013 under Paulo Bento. They shipped four to Germany followed by two to France in their last two games.

- Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at the 2018 World Cup. Their defeat to eventual winners France in 2018 is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).

- Belgium have only failed to score in two of their previous 58 games under Martínez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total). The two games where they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (losing 1-0) and in their most recent meeting with Portugal, a 0-0 draw in June 2018.

Eden Hazard is feeling strong and happy according to Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez, who urged the Real Madrid attacker to build on his performance in a 2-0 win over Finland.

After coming on as a substitute in Belgium's two opening matches at Euro 2020, Hazard started against Finland and posed Markku Kanerva's side problems alongside Romelu Lukaku and Jeremy Doku.

Hazard, who battled through an injury-plagued 2020-21 season in which he made just 14 LaLiga appearances, played all 90 minutes against Finland and impressed his coach.

Martinez told reporters: "He [Hazard] pushed himself and got into good positions.

"He looks free, twisting right and left. He feels strong, happy, his body is reacting well.

"The next step is now to see Eden with that final pass, that shot that finishes in the back of the net.

"I was delighted with his performance."

Since losing 1-0 to France in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, Belgium have scored in 33 consecutive matches in all competitions.

Victory over Finland ensured Belgium have won all three group games at back-to-back major tournaments (2018 World Cup and Euro 2020), and booked them a round of 16 match against the third-placed side from Group A, D, E or F in Seville on Sunday.

Belgium's most recent match in Spain ended in a 5-0 loss to the home side in a 2010 World Cup qualifier featuring Hazard alongside Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen.

Martinez underlined the importance of his side hitting top gear, saying: "This team has been very consistent over the last five years. It's now about getting every individual at their very best.

"We're going to play in Seville and we'll need to adapt and have every player ready and prepared to make the team better."

Eden Hazard is realistic about the strain an injury-hit two years at Real Madrid has put on his body, as he prepares to start for the first time in Euro 2020.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has confirmed Hazard, who came on as a substitute in Belgium's opening Group B games – wins over Russia and Denmark – will feature from the off in Monday's match against Finland in St Petersburg.

Hazard teed up Kevin De Bruyne's sweetly struck winner against Denmark last time out, taking his tally of assists to five in seven career appearances for Belgium at the Euros. Since at least 1980, his average of an assist every 98 minutes is the best of any player to have played at least five times in the competition.

The 30-year-old showed flashes of his quality, after what has been another injury-hampered season in the Spanish capital. Across the 2020-21 season, Hazard managed just 896 minutes of game time in all competitions, making 21 appearances in total.

Of those appearances, only 11 were starts, with Hazard scoring four goals and setting up a further two, creating 10 chances in total.

Though the former Chelsea star insists he still has full belief in his abilities, injuries have started to take a toll.

"I never doubted my qualities, but whether I would be 100 per cent fit for the European Championship was going to be a question," Hazard told a news conference on Sunday.

"I broke my ankle three times, it will never be the same as 10 years ago. But I know that when I am in shape, that I can prove myself on the field and that's what I'm working on now.

"I'm not 100 per cent yet, but I'm ready to start. But that was the plan, to bring me along gradually. It's especially important to be completely fit in the knockout phase. Then I have to be in top shape."

 

While stating he is ready to play from the off, Hazard also conceded he may not be able to complete the match.

"We will see how the match goes, but I may not be ready for 90 minutes, but I will play as many minutes as possible at a high level," he said.

"If it is 50 minutes, it will be 50. If it is 60, it will be 60. We'll see."

While Hazard will feature against Finland, his younger brother Thorgan – who netted Belgium's equaliser against Denmark – will not.

The Borussia Dortmund wideman, who has been playing at wing-back in Martinez's 3-4-3 system, will miss out due to a knee injury.

"He's just going to miss a game," Martinez explained.

"He should be back with the squad on Thursday or Friday. He had a knee injury, nothing serious. This game against Finland just comes 24 hours too early."

Kevin De Bruyne's match-turning performance in Belgium's 2-1 victory over Denmark was hailed as "very impressive" by coach Roberto Martinez.

After missing Belgium's 3-0 win against Russia due to an acute nose bone fracture suffered in the Champions League final, De Bruyne made a goalscoring return to action in Copenhagen on Thursday.

Yussuf Poulsen scored in the second minute of the Euro 2020 clash to give Denmark the lead, but Thorgan Hazard levelled for Belgium nine minutes into the second half after being teed up by substitute De Bruyne.

De Bruyne then fired the winner with 20 minutes to go, lashing home a brilliant shot from the edge of the penalty area.

The introduction of De Bruyne for the start of that second half proved a key tactical switch, and Martinez said the change was as much about gaining his experience as his quality.

"You never doubt Kevin De Bruyne's talent," Martinez told reporters.

"Obviously it's a big ask to come on at half-time and be able to affect the game the way he did it.

"It's not just about talent, it's also about his know-how, and the way he played in the second half he didn't look like a player that has been through surgery, that has been away from the football pitch.

"Again, it shows you the way he has looked after himself, the way he has been focused in training. But I don't think anyone could doubt his talent.

"This was a very impressive way for a player who has been away for a long time to introduce himself and affect the game in that way."

Martinez said that the atmosphere inside Parken Stadium was a factor in Denmark making a strong start to the game.

Kasper Hjulmand's side were playing their first game since midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during their opening game, a 1-0 defeat to Finland.

Banners bearing messages to Eriksen were held aloft in the crowd and Martinez described the impact of the supporters, saying: "It's difficult to explain if you were watching on TV, it's easier if you were in the stadium.

"The fans created an incredible atmosphere and gave the home team a goal lead. At that point we were a little shell-shocked, it took us probably 20 minutes to start being ourselves.

"We couldn't get through that desire, that heart and that pressure that the Danish team put on.

"That's expected, in a way. They were playing at home, they needed to win to qualify and I felt that the first half was a lot of emotion involved that took away a lot of what we can do on a football pitch."

Roberto Martinez says he has never seen "carefree" Eden Hazard work so hard and is also hopeful of having Kevin De Bruyne back to fitness for Belgium's clash with Denmark.

Hazard has been blighted by injuries during his two seasons at Real Madrid and was not deemed ready to start Belgium's 3-0 win over Russia in Saturday's Group B opener.

The 30-year-old played the final 18 minutes in Saint Petersburg – only his second international outing in 19 months, six days after coming on as a substitute against Croatia.

He managed only 18 touches of the ball during his time on the field, but Martinez is pleased with the progress being made by the Madrid forward to get back to his best.

"I've never seen him work so hard off the field," Martinez said at a news conference on Sunday. "As a captain, he feels the responsibility. From the first day he was with us, he works hard.

"Against Russia, that's the first time I've seen a carefree Hazard. Before that I always saw him thinking on the pitch.

"Now he is playing more intuitively, making moves and getting away from defenders. The challenge now is to last for 90 minutes.

"He worked individually again today, but he will get more minutes against Denmark and even more against Finland, when he should be able to play the full 90."

De Bruyne played no part in Belgium's comfortable win against Russia, secured thanks to a couple of Romelu Lukaku goals and one for Thomas Meunier.

The Manchester City man is recovering from the fractured nose and left orbital he sustained in his club side's loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final two weeks ago.

However, De Bruyne has a chance of being ready in time to feature against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday.

"He will resume training tomorrow," Martinez said. "After that we'll evaluate whether he can come to Copenhagen with us to play against Denmark."

Martinez also revealed that Axel Witsel will make a surprise return to action next week, just five months after tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for Borussia Dortmund.

"My idea was to have him start against Finland for the first time," he said. "That's why I named him in the 26-man group.

"But since he is ahead of schedule, he will be given some minutes against Denmark."

Belgium will be looking to build on a run of just one defeat in their last 24 matches in all competitions when they travel to Denmark.

The Danes lost 1-0 to Finland in their Group B opener, a game that was overshadowed by Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest during the first half.

Eriksen was given CPR on the pitch by medics and is now "awake" and recovering in hospital.

Denmark's players returned to the field less than two hours later and were beaten by a Joel Pohjanpalo goal, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg missing from the penalty spot.

"They were not themselves against Finland," Martinez said. "The circumstances with Eriksen weighed on the group. 

"We can expect a different Denmark and a very tough game on Thursday. You cannot compare the circumstances

"That will be a very emotional game, especially before kick-off. They have a very strong team, as we know from the Nations League. 

"The Danes will also have the support of the fans. But we need those kinds of matches. The match should be a celebration in honour of Eriksen, as it were."

Denmark and Belgium's only previous meeting at a major tournament was in the group stages of Euro 1984, the Danes winning that one 3-2 after recovering from two goals down.

Belgium full-back Timothy Castagne has been ruled out for the remainder of Euro 2020 after sustaining a double fracture of his right eye socket.

Roberto Martinez's Belgium opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Russia on Saturday but it came at a cost.

Castagne and Russia's Daler Kuzyaev collided in mid-air after 25 minutes and both went down holding their heads.

Belgium's Castagne was substituted immediately and Kuzyaev two minutes later in the Group B clash in St Petersburg.

"Really bad news, really sad news to see Timothy Castagne is going to be out of the tournament," Belgium head coach Martinez said. 

"He's had images taken, he's got a double fracture and now we'll take the necessary treatment."

While Leicester City's Castagne will sit out the rest of the European Championship, the news was better for Jan Vertonghen. 

Veteran defender Vertonghen was withdrawn in the 77th minute due to ankle injury, but Martinez said there were no major concerns regarding his fitness going forward. 

"Vertonghen has got just a typical football injury, an ankle knock that we're probably going to wait 48 hours to see the real extent, but I don't expect it to be too serious," Martinez said. 

Overall, Martinez was satisfied to see his side play the way they did in the opener. 

"The performance is very pleasing," he said. "It's never easy to start a tournament of this magnitude and I think it looked a team very concentrated for 90 minutes, kept a clean sheet in a very good way, and then obviously the win will allow us to grow and to get into the tournament."

Belgium are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions (W8 D2) and have suffered just one defeat in their last 24 internationals (W20 D3), via a 2-1 loss to England in the Nations League in October 2020.

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov will have far more to worry about after an uninspiring performance but expressed optimism his side will bounce back against Finland on Wednesday.

Cherchesov's Russia have lost four of their last six competitive games (W2) after losing just one of their 13 before that (W10 D2).

"We are still in the tournament," Cherchesov told a news conference. "We chose our system, which worked partially but then started to break down. The Belgians scored and then it was difficult to get the ball off them."

"We will get out of the situation. We put ourselves there, so now we must find a way out."

Kevin De Bruyne is progressing well in his injury recovery despite being ruled out of Belgium's Euro 2020 opener against Russia in St Petersburg.

Manchester City playmaker De Bruyne suffered fractures to his nose and orbital bone during last month's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

The sight of the 29-year-old being groggily helped from the field in Porto initially placed doubts over his participation at Euro 2020, but he has joined up with Roberto Martinez's squad.

Although Saturday's Group B opener comes too soon for De Bruyne, Martinez suggested he could feature before the end of the round robin stage, with the recently crowned PFA Footballer of the Year set to resume training alongside his team-mates when they return from their assignment at Krestovsky Stadium.

"It was always a medical direction. Kevin had to go through a few stages and he has been through those," the Belgium head coach explained at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"Yesterday he had a very positive day on the grass but it wasn't with the group.

"The next two days will be really important to get him back into moving freely and starting to get the exercise that is needed before he can come to the group."

Another experienced member of Martinez's squad, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, is closing in on a return to action.

Witsel has not played competitive football since suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in January but was still handed a place in the Red Devils' 26-man squad.

Like De Bruyne, he has not travelled to St Petersburg.

"The situation with Axel is very clear. He is part of the 26. His work in the past few days has been totally with the group and has been really satisfactory," Martinez said.

"Then we're going to take every day to try to add to that normality of Axel with the group. The decision not to travel to St Petersburg was to get another two days of work and then he will join the group again when we come back.

"From that point I don't expect Axel to miss a lot more."

He added: "Both players are following an individual programme. We're very happy with the progress in the last two days.

"Neither could join for tomorrow's game but both players are progressing really well and they're going to be with the group as soon as we come back."

Belgium will be keen to call upon De Bruyne's creative expertise as soon as possible.

Across 25 Premier League games in 2020-21, he delivered 12 assists at a rate of one every 167 – the most prolific return of any players to record three assists or more in England's top flight.

Everton continue their search for Carlo Ancelotti's replacement.

One emerging candidate has plenty of familiarity with Liverpool. 

Could the Toffees turn to a former rival? 

 

TOP STORY – BENITEZ IN MERSEYSIDE RETURN?

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has emerged as a strong contender to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, the Daily Mirror and other outlets report. 

As the Merseyside club's interest in former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has faded, majority owner Farhad Moshiri apparently plans to speak to the 61-year-old Benitez. 

The Spaniard was Liverpool's manager from 2004-10, winning the Champions League title in 2005. He spent 18 months in charge of Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional before leaving by mutual consent in January. 

Others under consideration include Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter, former Lille coach Christophe Galtier and former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have matched Paris Saint-Germain's offer of about €65million (£56.1m) to Inter for Achraf Hakimi, according to Sky Sport Italia, though Inter value the 22-year-old at €81m (£70m).

- Barcelona see Manchester City's Raheem Sterling as a potential replacement for Ousmane Dembele should the France international depart, according to Sport, and Marca says PSG have interest in Dembele. 

- David de Gea seems inclined to extend his stay at Manchester United and expects to be the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Dean Henderson, The Sun reports. 

- Atletico Madrid rejected United's £10m bid for England right-back Kieran Trippier, according to Football Insider. 

- Roma are close to completing their long-rumoured signing of Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, Corriere dello Sport claims. 

- West Ham would like to sign Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal, The Sun reports. 

- Tottenham have had discussions with Borussia Monchengladbach winger Marcus Thuram, RMC Sport reports, and The Athletic says Spurs could also be eyeing RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer

- Former Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has emerged as Spurs' preferred option to replace Jose Mourinho and the sides have discussed a three-year contract, the Guardian reports. 

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could be in the mix for the Crystal Palace opening, the Daily Mirror reports. 

Roberto Martinez will not rush Eden Hazard back into Belgium's starting line-up and says Kevin De Bruyne looks "fresh" and "ready" for Euro 2020.

Hazard has been blighted by injuries since joining Real Madrid from Chelsea two years ago and there have been concerns over his fitness for the European Championship.

The winger gave the Red Devils a lift on Sunday, though, making his first international appearance for 19 months as a late substitute in a 1-0 victory over Croatia.

Belgium boss Martinez will be patient with Hazard, who looks set to be on the bench for the Group B opener against Russia at Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday.

The Spaniard said: "I think the target for Eden was to be on the pitch and I think that was almost a psychological step. You need to be on the pitch, in a match scenario and it doesn't matter the minutes.

"It wasn't the case Eden needs to play bigger chunks of time on the pitch but I think the next step now will be in training to try to get the match intensity, but I was very pleased in the way that Eden came on, affected the pace of the because it's very hard to come on as a substitute to adapt to the pace of the game.

"It was a needed step, it wasn't about the minutes, it was about being able to do make that step without risk, in a safe manner and that is what we did."

Martinez is unsure when Hazard will be in a position to play an entire game, but says that is not essential.

He added: "I think it will be difficult to tell when he will be ready. It will depend on a lot of things; how the game goes, what is the scoreline, how demanding the game can be in and out of possession.

"What is important is now he is medically fit and now we have a good build-up of five days before the Russia game and then it will be about quality.

"It's not going to be about playing minutes, it's going to be about being able to see Eden Hazard with a big smile on his face and when he's on the pitch he can make the difference.

"I'm not too concerned about the minutes and I think it's a different approach, it's a tournament where we need to think we have five substitutes. It's not a lot about the starting XI, it's about every player when he's on the pitch can make a contribution.

"Five substitutes means almost 50 per cent of the outfield players can almost share the minutes, so I think that approach is going to be very important in this tournament."

Midfielder De Bruyne linked up with the Belgium squad on Monday as he recovers from the fractured nose and left orbital he suffered in Manchester City's Champions League final loss to Chelsea.

Martinez will take no risks with De Bruyne against Russia but gave a positive update on the playmaker's condition after he underwent surgery.

"Kevin De Bruyne has joined the group and that’s fantastic news," said the former Everton manager. "He looks ready, he looks fresh and just for him walking into the dining room was a real highlight of the day.

"He watched the game [against Croatia] and he's already in the mood of the team and is looking forward to slowly taking his own pace with the medical team. But it makes a big difference when he's with the players and is part of the group."

Asked how De Bruyne's recovery is going, Martinez replied: "Very well, the medical intervention went extremely well. It's still a very fresh one, so will take a few days, but the initial reaction has been really positive and he seems ready. He’s looking more forwards than backwards."

Roberto Martinez has confirmed Kevin De Bruyne will be fit for Euro 2020, albeit the Belgium star may not be able to feature in the opening game.

Martinez had been confident his talisman would be available for the tournament despite a facial injury suffered in Manchester City's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

De Bruyne sustained a fractured nose and left orbital in a collision with Antonio Rudiger, and was clearly in distress as he left the field in Porto.

However, after medical assessments and a minor surgical "intervention" – as Martinez described it – De Bruyne has been passed fit to link up with Belgium's squad on Monday.

"After looking at the images, it was decided Kevin needed a little bit of an intervention and that has taken place today, everything went really well, really positive, so we're looking forward to Kevin joining us on Monday, and he will join the squad for the Euros," Martinez told a news conference on Sunday.

Explaining the procedure, which should allow De Bruyne to play without needing to wear a mask, Martinez said: "I'm not the right person to talk in medical terms, it was just necessary for the long-term structure of the eye socket.

"It wasn't the type of surgery that is for the full structure of the front of the bone, it was just to make sure in the long-term there are no issues, but it is not a surgery as such that he needs a long time recovery, it was just to make sure the area was stronger, it took 20 minutes, went really well and the medical department are really happy.

"He's really good, he's in good spirits and can't wait to get on the pitch. This is not a surgery that stops you getting back in activities, it is the opposite, it gives you the opportunity to not need protection to play, so that's been really good news from that point of view and it's been done at the right time to see Kevin involved in the squad.

"If anything it has accelerated [his comeback] because he doesn't need protection. We believe that the area of the fracture, medically, he could even exercise without a mask, so in the medical process you need to take every day, and then when the swelling went down they were very happy. 

"Because of this support in the eye socket, the structures are stronger than normal, so it's not an area that he'll need a mask, but probably in the next few days we can get the doctor to speak in more detail."

However, De Bruyne is unlikely to be available for Belgium's opening group game against Russia on June 12.

"We were always taking the timeline of him not being involved in the first game, I don't think medically that has changed, but we need to take it day by day," Martinez added.

"I can only give you clear, specific timelines when the players are training, when they are in a treatment room and in medical care, it's impossible to put that timeline. We've got another 28 players who have been working extremely well."

While De Bruyne may be out of the Russia clash, Belgium's other star playmaker, Eden Hazard, is expected to be fit, with Martinez confirming the Real Madrid forward will feature against Croatia in a friendly on Sunday.

"Eden is almost free in every area. He had a really good workout and I feel he's fit for tomorrow," Martinez said.

"It's more a case of an introduction into the game. I don't think he'll start the game, but I think he'll finish the game, and it'll be a period to make sure he's back in a game scenario. From a physical, medical point of view, he's ready.

"Eden is someone who enjoys being on the football pitch, it's second nature. The hardest moments a player has is when you're injured and cannot do what you're really good at. I see Eden with a good feeling, now it's about building that confidence in order to push himself to the limit."

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez heaped praise on teenager Jeremy Doku after impressing in Thursday's 1-1 international friendly draw with Greece.

Martinez's Belgium were without several key players including star Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois for the pre-Euro 2020 warm-up fixture in Brussels.

Thorgan Hazard – brother of Real Madrid's Eden – opened the scoring off his shin in the 20th minute from a Yannick Carrasco assist.

Greece equalised in the 66th minute after Kyriakos Papadopoulos' header hit the post, with Georgios Tzavellas reacting first for the visitors.

Despite failing to win, Martinez was content with the result as they fine-tune ahead of the rescheduled European Championship, where top-ranked Belgium are one of the favourites.

Martinez offered rare praise of an individual, singling out 19-year-old Rennes forward Doku following his seventh international appearance.

The former Anderlecht man only scored two goals and provided three assists in Ligue 1 in 2020-21 but is highly rated in his native Belgium, bursting on to the international scene with a goal in his second Red Devils appearance last September.

"I'm very, very satisfied with some of the individual performances," Martinez said after the game. "It seems Jeremy Doku had exactly the same impact he had in March.

"He's looking always to be getting stronger and better. Not only when he has the ball but in general in many actions of the game he's involved in. He worked well tonight."

The Spaniard added: "Yannick Carrasco was very strong in both halves of the field. Romelu Lukaku also showed that he was having a very good time mentally.

"Then there is Dennis Praet, for a player who has not played for so long, it's really nice to see that he managed the 90 minutes well. It's very good to see such a good response from all the players."

Greece failed to qualify for the Euros, but Martinez was not too fazed by his side's inability to beat the 2004 champions.

"We needed a game like this," he said. "You don't learn anything that you win 3 or 4-0.

"I wanted a competitive team like the ones we are going to face at the Euros. That's why we chose Greece. We knew it would not be a friendly match against them.

"I am not disappointed because this game was not scheduled to be won. It was played so that all the players could level up.

"Many players have accumulated the playing time necessary for the Euros."

Belgium, whose Euro 2020 campaign starts against Russia on June 12, will play Croatia in their final warm-up fixture on Sunday.

Belgium started their preparations for Euro 2020 with a disappointing 1-1 friendly draw with Greece at the King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday. 

The Red Devils were without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who sustained fractures to his nose and eye socket in Manchester City's Champions League defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, and they sorely missed his creativity against John van 't Schip's side, who are ranked 50 places beneath them in the world rankings.

Thorgan Hazard had put Roberto Martinez's side ahead midway through the first half after a slick move and he missed a glaring opportunity to add another before the interval. 

He was punished for that miss in the 66th minute when Georgios Tzavellas stroked home to seal a draw for the visitors.

Greece started on the front foot, with Giorgos Masouras and Anastasios Bakasetas forcing Simon Mignolet into saves inside the opening 10 minutes.

Romelu Lukaku was denied from point-blank range by Odisseas Vlachodimos as the hosts belatedly woke from their slumber.

It did not take them long to go ahead once they had hit their stride, Hazard volleying home from six yards after a smart one-two with Yannick Carrasco in the 20th minute.

Hazard should have had a second before the interval, but the Borussia Dortmund man inexplicably struck the outside of the post with the goal at his mercy.

Mignolet tipped Masouras' effort around the post on the hour mark, before Tzavellas secured a draw for Greece with an instinctive finish from 10 yards after Kyriakos Papadopoulos' header had bounced back off the post.

 

What does it mean? Tougher tests to come for Red Devils

Their Euro 2020 group is not packed with giants of European football but if their struggles here are anything to go by then Belgium might not have it all their own way against Finland, Norway and Russia. 

Despite their attacking talent, the Red Devils only managed to carve out seven shots to Greece's nine, which will surely concern Martinez so close to a major tournament.

Hazard impresses for hosts 

Few in red shone, with Hazard the best of a below-par bunch. His goal came from a game-high three shots, while he gained possession on nine occasions – the joint-highest tally on the pitch.

Doku fails to shine

Martinez has suggested De Bruyne is unlikely to be fit enough for Belgium's opening group game and Jeremy Doku did not exactly stake his claim to deputise for him here. The Rennes man was brought off at half-time after playing just one key pass to a team-mate and failing to register a single shot on target.

What's next?

Belgium face Croatia in a friendly before their Euro 2020 campaign kicks off against Russia on June 12. Greece, meanwhile, face the Red Devils' Group B opponents Norway in a friendly on Sunday.

Roberto Martinez is confident Kevin De Bruyne will be fit enough to join Belgium's squad for Euro 2020, despite the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final.

De Bruyne left the field in distress during Manchester City's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in Porto, after taking a knock to the face from Antonio Rudiger.

It was confirmed on Sunday that the 29-year-old had sustained fractures to his nose and eye socket, and that seemed to cast some doubt over his participation in Euro 2020.

De Bruyne was always scheduled to meet up with the Belgium squad later due to his exploits for City, and Martinez is hopeful his star man will have recovered in time.

However, the Belgium coach did urge a cautious approach, with De Bruyne set to be closely monitored in the coming days.

"Kevin had a different programme, he was playing in the Champions League, that meant he had to join us seven days later," Martinez told a news conference.

"At the moment that programme has changed because unfortunately in those seven days he won't be able to rest and be with the family, it's going to be a period we need to monitor and do a lot of extra tests to see what his condition is.

"When I've spoken with Kevin, it has been quite positive as well. We've been very fortunate, Kevin doesn't need surgery. If he needed surgery, I think it would have been very difficult for Kevin to be part of the Euros.

"I think we're feeling the opposite now, because of the way that he's reacted, the treatment, we're feeling confident. We'll get a clear picture over the next seven days. It's one of those situations where we wish Kevin a speedy recovery just for him, but I feel positive he will be able to join us in the near future."

Asked if De Bruyne would be fit for Belgium's first game against Russia on June 12, Martinez replied: "We don't have an answer based on any medical facts.

"We're still assessing the extent of the injury and what is needed. I feel more confident now than I did after the final, that we'd be able to work in a way that we use Kevin in a cautious way, but a healthy way and hopefully we can see him on the pitch, enjoying his football."

After their meeting with Russia, Belgium face Denmark and Finland in their other Group B fixtures. The Red Devils play Greece and Croatia in friendlies on Friday and Monday respectively.

Tottenham have been linked with a host of big names as their search for a new head coach continues, but could they be set to turn to a familiar face?

Spurs dismissed Jose Mourinho last month amid an underwhelming campaign where they fell off the top-four pace in the Premier League, as well as crashing out of Europe to Dinamo Zagreb despite having led 2-0 from the first leg.

With speculation mounting around superstar forward Harry Kane's desire to leave, Spurs are getting busy.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS PLOT POCHETTINO RETURN

The Sun reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will consider if he can convince former boss Mauricio Pochettino to complete an astonishing return to the club.

Pochettino, who took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who finished Ligue 1 runners-up on the weekend.

The Sun claims that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris and would consider heading back to north London, where he was sacked in November 2019 after a poor run of results.

Sky Sports also reports that Spurs are in talks with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from winning the Serie A title, Antonio Conte and Inter could split by mutual consent according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter are trying to cut their salary bill, offloading key members and restricting their off-season business, with those details not yet agreed with Conte.

- Sport claims that Barcelona have stepped up their pursuit of off-contract Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and they are close to a three-year agreement after his representative met with president Joan Laporta.

- Wolves are ready to sell midfielder Ruben Neves as they look to fund a rebuild after Nuno Espirito Santo's exit, according to The Athletic. They want £35million for the Portugal international.

- Sky Sports reports that Willian wants to return to Chelsea, barely a year after leaving the Blues for London rivals Arsenal.

- Bild claims that RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele is being chased by Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wants to stay with Barcelona and is not considering any other option with Borussia Dortmund not pursuing him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

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