How Belgium and Italy could line up

Roberto Martinez has his Belgium side on the brink of another major tournament semi-final, but they will have to get through a heavily favoured Italian side to get there.

The Azzurri coasted through the group stages but suffered a slight scare in being pushed to extra time by Austria in the last 16.

With France now gone from their side of the draw, both sides will be well aware that a win here could put them in a fantastic position to compete in the final at Wembley in just over a weeks’ time.

It is Belgium that have the biggest team news coming into Friday night’s clash, with Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both set to be ruled out with injury.

The former was substituted in the latter stages of Belgium’s 1-0 win over Portugal in the last round, appearing to be grasping his hamstring, while De Bruyne was forced off just after half-time after feeling the brunt of a Joao Palhinha challenge.

In their place should be the two players that replaced them from the bench, being Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco.Outside of that, Martinez should continue with the tried and tested formula. Thomas Vermaelen was a surprise inclusion against Portugal, but the veteran was impressive against Portugal’s attacking weapons and should earn himself a place again.

Thorgan Hazard’s screamer got the Red Devils into the quarter-finals, and he should continue at left wing-back, with Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel marshalling the midfield.

The question mark for Roberto Mancini hangs over the head of captain Giorgio Chiellini, who hasn’t played since coming off injured in the second group game against Switzerland.

If the Juventus defender is fit, a straight swap for Francesco Acerbi could be the only change for Italy with continuity and consistency ideal in the latter stages of a tournament.

Mancini will likely resist the temptation to start Italy’s two round of 16 goal scorers, Matteo Pessina and Federico Chiesa, who came off the bench to win the game against Austria.

Manuel Locatelli will hope to muscle his way back into the midfield but Marco Verratti, Nicolo Barella should continue in front of Jorginho in that department.

Ciro Immobile should lead the line, while the resolute backline with Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Leonardo Spinazzola on its flanks will likely be asked to go again.

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