The Red Devils are the top dogs in Group I of the European Cup qualifiers, which has among others, Russia, the team they open with their qualification campaign on Thursday 21st March. This matrch will be among the top picks for the most entertaining matches in the qualifiers, with either side seeking a fast start. Belgium will however kick it off as the favorites and playing at home will give them the additional punch. The fact that their top striker Romelu Lukaku is enjoying a good run of form will further aid them, while having Eden Hazard in the team will further add to their prospects. Belgium have won 12 of their last 15 matches, losing two and drawing one. In 32 matches they have lost just two, signifying their place as top dogs in this game. They haven’t lose any of their last nine European Cup qualifying games. The last loss came in 2010 and it happens to be the last one in 13 home matches in the European Cup qualifiers. They have picked wins in each of the last four European Cup qualification matches, only losing one in 10 – to Wales. Russia, on the other hand, head to this game on the back of two losses – to Germany and Sweden – in a friendly matches and in a UEFA Nations League clash and just like Belgium, they have won each of the last four European Cup qualification matches, though their opponents can’t be compared to Belgium’s. In five meetings between the two, Russia have never picked a win, while Belgium have three.
Northern Ireland will be facing an Estonia side that managed to see off Greece on the road in their last UEFA Nations League match and has beaten Finland and drawn with Iceland in two non FIFA friendly matches ahead of this clash. However, with just three wins in their last 15 matches, Estonia will not get to this game on a very strong position. The hosts have also not been at their best in their last four outings; they have no win in the run and have scored just a goal in the process, losing three and drawing one. Northern Ireland have picked four wins in their last 15 outings and have had a patchy home run as well, with five wins in the last 10 matches at their backyard. They however got close to qualifying to the 2018 World Cup, only falling off at the playoffs, while they got to the Euro 2016 finals so we can’t really judge them by the failings in the recent outings. In fact, Northern Ireland have not lost any of their last five home matches in the European Cup qualifiers, winning three and drawing two. On the other hand, Estonia take to this clash three straight losses in the European Cup qualifiers. They are winless in six away matches in the qualifiers for the same tournament and have failed to score in the last five away matches. In the 2012 Euro qualifiers, Estonia saw off Northern Ireland home and away and in the four meetings between the two nations, Northern Ireland’s two wins both came in friendly matches.