Belgium boss aims to channel Wigan Athletic spirit

Roberto Martinez has signalled his intention to channel the famous Wigan Athletic spirit when his Belgium side face Italy in Friday night's Euro 2020 quarter-final clash.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 10:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 10:06 pm
Roberto Martinez

Martinez will give Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard until the last minute to prove their fitness ahead of Friday night's Euro 2020 quarter-final clash with Italy.

Manchester City star De Bruyne suffered an ankle injury during Sunday's 1-0 win over Portugal, during which Real Madrid's Hazard also limped off with a muscle problem, and neither was able to train with the rest of the squad on Thursday morning.

However, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of the game in Munich, Martinez said: "We all know that we are fighting against time, but we're going to take until the last minute to make the decision.

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"Every day that goes by, every time they can sleep and get three meals and get some treatment, we see an improvement, and then we'll see tomorrow if they can be involved or not.

Unfortunately at the moment, we cannot make a decision.

"Obviously it will be difficult for tomorrow - a soft tissue injury in Eden's case, maybe is difficult for a game like tomorrow, and for Kevin, having a ligament problem maybe is a bit different.

"But it's more a medical decision. At the moment, it's not a football decision; tomorrow it will become a medical decision in the afternoon and then we'll make a football decision after that."

Martinez could do with having all his most potent weapons available for a clash with an Italian side which is unbeaten in 31 matches, while both teams are bidding to become the first to win 15 consecutive European Championship matches since the start of qualification.

However, he may be able to draw a little inspiration from a previous clash with Roberto Mancini after famously leading Latics to FA Cup final victory over the Italy head coach's Manchester City team in 2013.

He said: "Obviously it was very special for Wigan Athletic and everyone connected, but it shows you that over 90 minutes in a cup, anything can happen."

Belgium will be looking to striker Romelu Lukaku to continue his superb goalscoring form but Italy skipper Giorgio Chiellini insists he will not be losing any sleep over the prospect of going head-to-head with the Inter Milan hitman.

The 36-year-old Juventus defender and his team-mates face the task of stopping the man whose goals helped to hand Inter a first Serie A title in 11 years last season if they are to emerge victorious.

Chiellini, who is back in contention after missing the final Group A win over Wales and the last-16 win against Austria through injury, told a press conference: "We have got a lot of respect for Lukaku because he had a great season for Inter and all campaign long, we have witnessed just what a match-winner and a big player he's become.

"But it would be doing a disservice to Belgium if you were simply to say that Belgium were all about Romelu Lukaku because they've got quality players all over the pitch.

"We'll prepare for the game as we always have done. We'll keep an eye on him and their other good players because they have got some top players regardless of who starts tomorrow night.

"But I think we'll both sleep well tonight, that goes for me and Romelu."

Mancini is well aware of the challenge his side faces against FIFA's number one ranked team, but insists the tournament to date is proof that favouritism counts for little.

Mancini said: "There's no such thing as a straightforward match - Switzerland beat France; Portugal are out; so too are Germany; the Netherlands were knocked out by the Czech Republic.

"We are on the slightly more difficult side of the draw, at least on paper, but as we've seen from matches at this level, there's never anything that is taken for granted or straightforward."

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