Koeman cools Van Dijk concerns

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman expects central defender Virgil van Dijk to be okay to feature for Liverpool at Huddersfield Town this weekend.

Van Dijk played and scored in a 3-0 Nations League win for the Oranje over Germany on Saturday, but will be absent when the Dutch take on Belgium on Tuesday evening, as he is dealing with a rib problem.

However, Koeman is confident that Van Dijk will be clear to return to action in the Premier League on Saturday, the former Celtic and Southampton defender having managed his injury for a number of weeks.

Koeman told De Telegraaf: "Virgil has played with two broken ribs in the last few weeks. He wanted to play against Germany and you have to give (his) club something back now.

"He's back in Liverpool, but he is ready to play for next week. He's taken a rest and spoken to his manager.

"The medical staff of the Dutch national team spoke to the medical staff of Liverpool and made the decision that he was playing only the Germany game and then after that back to Liverpool.

"He is ready to play next weekend."

Van Dijk cost the Reds a world record fee for a defender when he joined from the Saints in December 2017, with the deal worth in the region of £75million.

He has since scored once in 32 appearances in all competitions for the Merseysiders, helping Liverpool reach the final of the Champions League last season.

This season the Reds are available at 9/4 to win the Premier League title, while they are 8/1 to go all the way and triumph in the Champions League.

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Koeman keeps feet on ground

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has refused to get carried away by a 3-0 victory over Germany insisting his team are far from the finished article.

Germany's troubles after a poor World Cup 2018 continued in Amsterdam with Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum on the scoresheet in Holland's biggest ever win over their close rivals.

It was a morale boosting win after they missed out on qualifying for Russia this summer but Koeman was cautious after the third win in his seven games in charge of the national side.

The former Everton boss said after the game: "We were waiting a long time for this, but I'm not the kind of guy who pretends that we've become world champions.

"I'm proud because finally we got the result we needed and we can say 'yes, there is development in the team'. That's what we needed. You could also feel that in the stadium, in the atmosphere.

"But if I tell the players that everything was great, it's not good. We need to grow with each other."

The Netherlands lost to France in their opening Nations League game last month and they end the group stages of the competition next month.

However they play Belgium in a friendly on Tuesday to try and build on the Germany result against a side who reached the semi-finals in Russia.

Netherlands are 5/1 to win the game with Belgium 4/7 and the draw 11/4.

The Netherlands are 9/2 to top Group 1 in the Nations League.

Koeman's side go into Tuesday's game without Liverpool defender Van Dijk who misses out with a rib injury sustained when playing for the Reds in the Premier League last month.

His Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah is another to miss his country's second match in this international break, returning to his club after a muscle injury suffered in Egypt's win over Swaziland on Friday.

Liverpool are 9/4 to win the Premier League this season.

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Henry takes up Monaco post

Monaco have confirmed the appointment of Thierry Henry as their new head coach, with the former France international signing a three-year contract.

The 41-year-old started his playing career with Monaco before enjoying spells with Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls, while on the international stage he helped Les Bleus to glory at the 1998 World Cup and the European Championships two years later.

He has been an assistant coach with Belgium for the last two years and now steps up to his first senior role, taking over at the Stade Louis II following the recent departure of Leonardo Jardim.

Henry told the club's official website: "I thank AS Monaco for giving me the opportunity to coach the team of this club which is so special to me.

"I am very happy to come back to AS Monaco and extremely determined to meet the challenges ahead. I cannot wait to meet the players and start working together."

Henry takes charge of a team languishing down in 18th place in Ligue 1, having won just one of their opening nine games in the French top-flight this season.

The lone success was a 3-1 victory on the opening weekend of the season, since when they have failed to win any of their ten games played in all competitions.

Monaco are currently priced at 33/1 to finish in the top three in Ligue 1 this season, with Lille 7/2 and Bordeaux 16/1.

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Spurs confirm Vertonghen absence

Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed that defender Jan Vertonghen is facing around another two months on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury.

The 31-year-old Belgium international has not featured for Spurs since the 2-0 Premier League victory at Huddersfield town at the end of September and is not expected to return before December.

A statement from Spurs confirmed: "Jan sustained a hamstring injury against Huddersfield Town on 29th September, which has been monitored closely over the past 12 days.

"Further investigation has shown a good initial response to rehabilitation. He will now continue his recovery with a view to returning to full training by December."

Vertonghen moved to Tottenham in the summer of 2012 from Ajax and has since racked up nearly 250 appearances in all competitions for the Londoners, while he was also a member of the Belgium squad who reached the semi-finals of World Cup 2018.

And Vertonghen has been given the backing of club and international team-mate Toby Alderweireld, who is confident that his colleague will come back stronger from his latest setback.

He told Sky Sports: "He is devastated he can't play but will try to come back as quickly as possible.

"If you're injured it's always mentally hard, but he will get through this and become stronger."

Spurs are back in action following the international break when they make the short trip to the London Stadium to take on West Ham on Saturday October 20th.

They can be backed at 4/5 to defeat the Hammers, with the draw priced at 13/5, while Tottenham are 4/6 to finish the season in the top four in the Premier League.

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UEFA Nations League: It’s Belgium’s Chance To Go Top!

Belgium vs Switzerland

World Cup 2018 semi-finalists Belgium welcome Switzerland in Brussels this weekend for the UEFA Nations League, and expectations are high for Roberto Martinez’ men who have a huge chance of claiming the solo lead in Group A2.

The in-form El Nati, of course, will be keen to say otherwise. After all, they did demolish Iceland in their opening game of the tournament last month, seemingly sending a message to Belgium that they are coming for them.

However, there’s a reason why the Red Devils are currently the top team in the world, and they will be determined to show that this time around.

Talking Points

Belgium have been sensational over the past few years, to say the least. While their so-called “Golden Generation” failed to deliver the most-coveted silverware in the recent World Cup, their semi-final appearance is a testament to how dangerous they are.

Besides, they only beat the likes of England and Brazil on their way to their bronze medal finish.

Now, they are the top-rated team in the world—making history as one of the first ever teams (together with France) to share the top spot in the rankings.

The Red Devils head to the Switzerland match at the back of three straight wins, including back-to-back victories against Scotland and Iceland in September that saw them score a total of seven goals.

They hit four unanswered goals in their friendly match with the Scots before firing three against Iceland in their first UEFA Nations League game. Romelu Lukaku scored three of those goals, with Michy Batshuayi and Eden Hazard bagging two each.

Martinez will be concerned about the recent form of Lukaku and Batshuayi. Lukaku hasn’t scored in Manchester United’s past six games as the Old Trafford club stumbled both in their domestic and European campaigns.

Batshuayi, meanwhile, has been abysmal for Valencia, finding the back of the net just once in 10 competitive matches.

However, the 45-year-old manager will remain confident about their chances against Switzerland, thanks to Eden Hazard who has been on fire for Chelsea in the past months. The streaky Belgian forward has already scored eight goals in all competitions for the Blues, seven of which came in the Premier League.

He also boasts three assists in the English top flight, helping Chelsea stay unbeaten in the competition.

Can Eden Hazard once again lead Belgium to victory in their upcoming UEFA Nations League match?

Belgium star Eden Hazard in action against Iceland’s Birkir Bjarnason during a UEFA Nations League game

Hazard will be the main attacking threat for Belgium, and Martinez is undoubtedly leaning on his star striker to lead them in their conquest of Switzerland.

Vladimir Petkovic’s charges know the threat that Belgium bring, especially on their home turf, but they will hope to ride on their six-to-nothing thrashing of Iceland in the Group A2 opener to turn things around.

Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Wolfsburg’s Admir Mehmedi and Hoffenheim’s Steven Zuber were all on target in that game—grabbing the UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights in the process—so it’s not wrong for Petkovic to believe that they can win.

Nonetheless, their friendly loss to England shouldn’t help their cause, especially after exposing once again their habit of collapsing in the second of a match, similar to what we have seen in their World Cup 2018 stint.

History

Belgium won three of their last five matches with Switzerland, but they have only met once at the turn of the century. Their only meeting in the 2000s was a friendly at Switzerland’s Stade de Geneve two years ago, a fixture that saw Belgium top the hosts 1-2.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the winner in that game after Lukaku equalised for them. Unfortunately, the Manchester City playmaker is set to miss this fight due to injury.

With the two teams lacking information on how to play against each other, Belgium will be happy to be playing at home. The Belgians are undefeated at home since 2016, boasting a 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Betting Tip

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Belgium vs Switzerland Correct Score Belgium 2-1 @ 7.00
October 13, 02:45 (GMT+8)

To no one’s surprise, Belgium are commanding the UEFA Nations League 2018 odds. Even the Asian Handicap odds at us are giving Petkovic’s men a huge handicap just to even the playing field.

However, as Martinez said, the Swiss could prove to be really difficult opposition. And I expect that to be the case.

Belgium will be missing some key players, and I think that will make them struggle a little bit. Switzerland, on the other hand, will surely be determined to win, knowing the fact that they have nothing really to lose as the underdogs.

I predict the match to be close, and I see a repeat result of their 1-2 friendly—with Hazard scoring this time.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Real remain on Hazard’s mind

In-form Chelsea ace Eden Hazard has admitted that he could still tempted to leave Stamford Bridge and make a dream move to join Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old Belgium international forward is under contract with the Blues until the summer of 2020, having admitted straight after the World Cup finals that he is still keen on a future at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Hazard told reporters: "Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I don't want to lie today, it is my dream since I was a kid. I was dreaming about this club.

"We will see. I don't want to talk about this every day. I don't have time, but we will talk about my future soon.

"I want what's good for me, but I want what's good for the club because the club has given me everything.

"I don't want to say 'yes, I am signing a new contract' and then in the end I don't end up signing.

"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think I want to go. Sometimes I think I want to stay. It is a hard decision, it is my future. I am 27 and I will turn 28 in January."

Hazard joined Chelsea from Lille in the summer of 2012 and has since scored 97 goals in 310 appearances in all competitions for the Londoners, helping them to two Premier League titles, as well as success in the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League.

This season he has scored seven goals in eight Premier League appearances, including a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory over Cardiff City in mid-September.

Chelsea are available at 9/1 to be crowned Premier League champions this season, while they are 7/1 to lift the FA Cup and 5/1 to triumph in the Europa League.

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Martinez confirms Vertonghen woe

Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen is set to be out of action for between four and six weeks, according to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

Vertonghen suffered the injury in Spurs' 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town on Saturday at the John Smith's Stadium.

The Belgian defender was hauled off at half-time in West Yorkshire and was then forced to sit out Tottenham's 4-2 Champions League defeat at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday.

Martinez has now confirmed Vertonghen, who is already out of Belgium's upcoming games with Switzerland and the Netherlands, could be out of action for up to six weeks.

The news comes as a big blow for Tottenham, as they will have to do without the 31-year-old for some key encounters.

West Ham at the London Stadium, Manchester City at home and the two Champions League matches against PSV Eindhoven are coming up and manager Mauricio Pochettino could have to do without one of his star defenders.

Next up for Pochettino and Spurs is a home encounter against strugglers Cardiff City, who are yet to secure a win in the Premier League this season.

Spurs are 1/4 to win, 23/4 to draw and 12/1 to lose to Neil Warnock's side at Wembley on Saturday.

Spurs assistant boss Jesus Perez later added abaout the injury to Vertonghen: "We had one scan with him and another scan on Monday to see how bad the injury is.

"It could take a while, it is not a normal injury. It was a stretch and that kind of injury has to be assessed properly. A second scan (will be needed) before we know the timeframe of that sort of injury."

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De Bruyne tipped for swift return

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez says he is confident that Kevin de Bruyne will soon be back in action for club and country.

The Manchester City midfielder was expected to be out of action for three months after injuring his right knee last month.

However, his international manager expects him back sooner than that. Speaking to reporters in London he said: "The issue is how long he will be out and the reports are very positive.

"I think we'll see him on the pitch a lot earlier than other players would take with that injury [and] we think he could be even fresher after his period away.

"No time scale yet but Kevin wants to be on the football pitch as quick as he can and physically he's got that natural gift of being able to heal quicker than other players."

The comments from Martinez follow those of De Bruyne himself who said last week that his recovery was going well. He estimated his return to be between three and five weeks away and therefore he could return for City after the international break next month.

De Bruyne was City's player of the year last season as they cruised to the Premier League title. He was also instrumental in his country's run in the World Cup 2018.

Belgium reached the semi-finals of the tournament in Russia, beating England in the third-place playoff.

City, in the midfielder's absence, have made a good start to the new Premier League season. They are second in the table, two points behind Liverpool the only team who have a 100% record after the first six games of the new campaign.

City travel to League One Oxford in the EFL Cup this week before hosting Brighton in the Premier League next Saturday.

City, 8/11 to retain their league title, are 1/14 to beat Brighton who are 22/1 with the draw 10/1.

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Sarri welcomes Hazard surprise

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has no doubts that Blues forward Eden Hazard is already one of the best players in Europe and can still improve further.

The Belgium international completed a hat-trick as the Londoners saw off Cardiff City 4-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with his performance leaving Sarri purring with the quality on display.

And the Italian says he has been surprised in a good way by seeing Hazard close up for the first time.

He told reporters: "He can become maybe the best player in Europe in the next two years. He will improve by spending less time a long way away from goal.

"I thought Hazard was one of the best players in Europe, but now I'm changing my mind, maybe he's the best now. I also think he can improve more.

"When we have the ball in our half and touch it five or six times, with these actions he spends a lot of energy when he can have more energy in the last 20 or 25 metres.

"I think Hazard could score 30 or 35 goals, I think he can do it. Yesterday I said to him that for me he can score 40 goals, but he has to spend less energy far from the opposition goal and play in the last 25 metres."

Hazard joined the Blues in the summer of 2012 from French side Lille and has since scored 94 goals in 305 appearances in all competitions, while he has netted 27 goals in 94 outings for the Belgium national team.

Chelsea are 9/1 to win the Premeir League this season, while they are 7/1 to lift the FA Cup and 11/2 to triumph in the Europa League.

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UEFA Nations League: Red Devils Too Hot for Icemen

Iceland 0-3 Belgium

Belgium blew Iceland away in tonight’s UEFA Nations League in Reykjavik thanks to two goals from Romelu Lukaku and a penalty converted by Eden Hazard.

Roberto Martinez has a wealth of talent at his disposal, so Iceland vs Belgium predictions were very much in favour of a Red Devils victory. And that’s how it turned out. The visitors were far too good for a spirited but depleted Iceland side, dominating for long periods of the game and looking every bit serious contenders for Euro 2020.

Highlights of the game

Belgium had just flown up to Iceland after having swept Scotland aside 0-4 in a nice warm-up at the weekend, but they expected a tougher challenge against Iceland, particularly after their hosts had been uncharacteristically hammered by Switzerland.

They did face a more resolute and well-organised team, but in the end were simply too good. It just took a while to for them to get going, and then there was no stopping the Red Devils.

As the Viking thunderclap chants reverberated around the Laugardalsvollur Stadium, Iceland had the best chance of the opening exchanges. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson raided down the right wing and crossed low for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Everton man’s shot skidded wide.

Slowly but surely, Belgium started to find their rhythm and worked out that they’d profit against this Iceland side by getting wide and crossing into the danger areas. The in-form Romelu Lukaku was just about to head a cross home, but he was pole-axed by Birkir Bjarnason and the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Iceland failed to stop the Belgians' fiery attack during their UEFA Nations league clash

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson saves a penalty during their World Cup 2018 match against Argentina

Iceland keeper Hannes Halldorsson famously saved a penalty against Argentina in the World Cup, but Eden Hazard managed to do here what Leo Messi failed to do in Russia and beat the Qarabag stopper with a cool finish.

And minutes later, one became two when Dries Mertens whipped in a cross for Vincent Kompany. Though Halldorsson got in the way of the header, Lukaku picked up the rebound to poke the ball just over the line from close range.

As Iceland tried to get back into the game, Belgium played some keep-ball to go in 2-0 up at the halftime break.

The early stages of the second half didn’t provide much respite for Iceland as the Red Devils passed the ball around with ease. Thomas Meunier shot just wide on 58 minutes and then the PSG man came closer five minutes later when he took a pass from Lukaku. This time, his shot came back off the post.

Iceland were still in the game, just, and Gylfi Sigurdsson tried to inspire a comeback, unleashing a shot towards the top-left corner which Thibaut Courtois saved.

But that was just a brief interruption to Belgium’s dominance. Meunier came close again, and a third goal looked on the cards. When it came on 81 minutes, it was from the same source as the second, with Mertens supplying Lukaku, and the Manchester United striker fired low and true into the corner.

Key statistics

Our pre-match us tips backed a game with over 2.5 goals and the handicap spread suggested a two-goal margin. Iceland put up a fight but, in this form, Belgium are an irresistible force.

After a bright start from the hosts, Belgium took control of the first half, finishing with 72 per cent possession and eight shots to two. Iceland doubled their tally to four by the final whistle but Belgium ramped up the pressure in the second half, with 20 shots in total.

That’s seven wins in eight now for Belgium, but none in eight for Erik Hamren’s Iceland.

What’s next?

In recent years, Iceland has developed a talent for pulling off surprise results against elevated opposition. But the magic seems to have temporarily left them. After the first round of UEFA Nations League 2018 results in Group A2, they are rock bottom.

When things aren’t quite going for you, a win can work wonders. But the Icemen have picked France away as their next challenge. Oh well; you have to test yourself if you want to improve. And if they do improve, they may be in with a chance of exacting revenge on Switzerland back home in Iceland. Erik Hamren will hope to have some key players back from injury.

It’s all looking bright for Belgium, though, and Roberto Martinez’ team welcomes Switzerland at home in October before playing an improving Netherlands in a friendly.

 

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