Kevin de Bruyne joins the Belgian squad for the European Championship 2020 on Monday after an operation on the eye socket
Belgian manager Roberto Martinez finally has some encouraging news about star players Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne after a scorching build-up to Euro 2021 for the world’s highest-ranked nation.
Hazard, who has been plagued by eight different injuries this season, will make his final comeback in today’s final warm-up against Croatia and should appear on Saturday when the Red Devils open Group B against Russia in St Petersburg.
Meanwhile, De Bruyne – who broke his nose and eye socket during Manchester City’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea – underwent successful 20-minute surgery on Saturday to treat the affected area and will report back in training on Monday.
Kevin de Bruyne will join the Belgian team on Monday after surgery on a broken eye socket
While Martinez doesn’t expect De Bruyne to take on the Russians, he is optimistic the world-class midfielder will impress at the European Championship without needing a mask to protect his face.
“Kevin is in a good mood. He can’t wait to hit the field on Monday. This wasn’t like an operation that made him inactive,” Martinez said.
“It has actually accelerated things and will probably give him the chance not to need protection to play, which is really good news. Thanks to a new support, the structures are now stronger than with a normal eye socket.’
As for Hazard, who has only started two games since January and originally suffered a serious ankle injury, he will play a part against Croatia in the hopes of taking his team-mates who struggled to a 1-1 draw against Greece on Thursday.
“I feel he is fit for the game. I don’t think he will start, but he will finish,” Martinez revealed.
“The hardest thing for any player is injuries, but I see Eden happy and smiling again. He’s in a good place, now it’s important to build that trust.’
Belgian boss Roberto Martinez says De Bruyne won’t need a long recovery after the injury
With another injury care Axel Witsel struggling to recover in time for the European Championship, there is a lack of smiles in the Belgian camp.
Their golden generation has been supported for years to win a major trophy and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia.
But their latest Euro campaign ended in embarrassment against Wales and this could be their last realistic shot at glory with Hazard, Dries Mertens, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen in their thirties and De Bruyne turning 30 later this month. is becoming.
Martinez used to be mocked for always seeing things on the bright side, but that glass half-full mentality is now important.
“We are only asked about injuries, but internally we are very enthusiastic,” he says. “Jeremy Doku played against Greece, he’s 19 and makes me smile every time he hits the ball. He can play right, he can play left.
‘Eden’s situation doesn’t worry me. Some players need to be at their best physically, others can rely on their talent. Eden will always have quality in a one-on-one situation. He can play a big part in this tournament, it’s not about getting 90 minutes in the first game.”
Thierry Henry, part of Martinez’s backroom team at the latest World Cup, will return to the track on Tuesday after trying his luck as an MLS manager and television pundit.
Despite Vincent Kompany’s retirement, Belgium has an abundance of know-how, especially in defence. “We have six players almost a hundred caps,” said Martinez. “We need to enjoy it more than pick out the mistakes. It’s not a mistake to be experienced, it’s an advantage.’
Tottenham’s Alderweireld, 32, describes the Red Devils camp as calm despite claims they are past their prime.
De Bruyne will wear a mask similar to Jan Vertonghen’s two years ago
“Age and number of caps help,” he says. ‘Don’t panic at times like this. Before my first tournament I was much more restless. Now we all know what to do, that’s a good feeling.
“Any team would miss Kevin or Eden, but we’ve done it before when those players aren’t available. Others have to step down. The team will always be number one. We will take care of this.’
One member of the star triumvirate who is fully fit and in explosive form is Romelu Lukaku, who scored 34 goals for Serie A champions Inter Milan last season.
Against Greece he was followed everywhere by two or three defenders and Martinez says his team-mates should take advantage.
“Romelu is now getting a different treatment, but that should give us room in other areas to use,” he says.
“I saw Romelu was sharp, but I know opponents will make him a lot tighter because of his reputation.”