Belgium’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne looks at teammates running during a training session at the team’s base camp at the Belgian National Football Centre in Tubize on June 10, 2021 ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020 football competition. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)
Kevin De Bruyne will miss Belgium’s first game of Euro 2020 against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Saturday as he continues his recovery from the facial fractures he suffered in the Champions League final.
The Manchester City midfielder stayed behind in Belgium when Roberto Martinez’s side travelled to Russia, but he hopes to be ready for the team’s second Group B match next Thursday.
“I am aiming to be ready for the game against Denmark,” De Bruyne told Uefa.com.
The 29-year-old suffered the injuries from a tackle by Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger in Porto last month.
De Bruyne had to be substituted and watched on as his City teammates lost 1-0.
Belgium will also be without Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel on Saturday as he too stayed behind to focus on recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.
The Red Devils, the world’s top-ranked team, beat Russia twice in qualifying, but Martinez says they will not take their opponents lightly.
“I agree that the first game is often the most difficult in a big tournament,” said the Spanish coach.
“You have to get into the tournament both mentally and physically.
“It’ll be a real test tomorrow because we know this team very well, but they also know us by heart and they’ll have the support of their fans.”
Russia will be hoping to make their mark in a group also featuring a strong Danish outfit and major tournament debutants Finland.
Their coach Stanislav Cherchesov, who led them to the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals on home soil, believes Russia can take heart from their recent meetings with Belgium, which also included a 3-3 friendly draw in 2017.
“Belgium have 18 players who played in the World Cup in 2018. They’re obviously a strong team,” he said.
“We’ve played them three times over the past few years and all of the games were really entertaining. We have to play to our maximum tomorrow to succeed.”