Belgium keeping top players back for England game

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - League A - Group 2 - Belgium v Iceland - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - September 8, 2020 Belgium coach Roberto Martinez REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium will rest key players for Sunday’s Nations League meeting against England when they take on the Ivory Coast in a friendly in Brussels, coach Roberto Martinez said on Wednesday.

Toby Alderweireld, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelo Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel did not take part in training on Wednesday to keep them fresh for the Nations League clash at Wembley and next Wednesday’s match against Iceland in Reykjavik.

“Now that we’ve been able to extend the numbers in the squad and that opens a very good window for us to have a lot of debutants, a lot of emerging and young talent in the team,” Martinez told reporters.

“They’ve earned the opportunity to be in the national team and now we will see what they can do and if they can add competition into the group.”

Martinez said his line-up against the Ivorians on Thursday would be “a little bit of a window on the future for Red Devils’ fans”.

There are five uncapped players in the 33-man squad that Martinez named for this month’s trio of matches.

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond