Kevin De Bruyne will miss Belgium’s opening Euro 2020 fixture with Russia, as he continues his recovery from injury.
The Man City talisman suffered a nasty facial injury that forced him off against Chelsea in the Champions League final, and he left the pitch in tears. His exit was followed by inevitable fears that he could be ruled out of the Euros altogether.
However, the 2020/21 PFA Player of the Year was still named in Roberto Martinez’s squad and has continued his recovery alongside his international teammates, and there was a growing hope that he could feature when they kick off against Russia in Saturday’s 8pm fixture.
But it seems that game has come too soon, as he has been left in Belgium while his teammates make the long trip to St Petersburg. He will be joined there by Axel Witsel, who continues his own recovery from an Achilles problem.
Martinez had expressed optimism about De Bruyne earlier in the week, telling reporters on Tuesday: “He has joined the group and that’s fantastic news. He looks ready, he looks fresh and just for him walking into the dining room was a real highlight of the day.
“He watched the Croatia game and he’s already in the mood of the team and is looking forward to slowly taking his own pace with the medical team.
“But it makes a big difference when he’s with the players and is part of the group.”
Belgium had been without De Bruyne and Witsel for warmup friendlies with Greece and Croatia but they go in in good shape. A draw with Greece followed a victory over Croatia, in which Premier League duo Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker ran the show in midfield.
But regardless of their options elsewhere, Martinez will be desperate to have his regular starting duo back in the fold. After the Russia game, Belgium face Denmark three days later before their Group B campaign concludes against Finland the following Monday, and there will be a hope that De Bruyne and Witsel can feature in those games.