Belgium v France: Goals and cards the smart picks on night of drama in Turin

James Eastham guides you through the mouth-watering clash between two of the world's best sides taking place in Turin on Thursday night...

Belgium seeking revenge

For Belgium, right wing-back Thomas Meunier has been ruled out by injury. Eden Hazard is "not at his best physically", according to Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. But the Real Madrid winger may start.

For France, Ngolo Kante will be absent following a positive covid-19 test. Juventus' Adrien Rabiot (who would be playing in his home stadium) and current Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year Aurelien Tchouameni are the main contenders to replace the Chelsea player. In all other positions, les Bleus ought to be at full strength.

There's one word on the lips of Belgium supporters in the build-up to this Uefa Nations League semi-final in Turin, and that's "revenge". The pain of their 1-0 World Cup semi-final defeat at France's hands in Russia three years has not yet faded completely.

Belgium felt they should have won that game, and members of their side said as much after the match. Memories of how that game played out have raised the stakes ahead of this fixture.

Both teams have plenty to prove after premature Euro 2020 exits. In the Last 16 France threw away a 3-1 lead against Switzerland to eventually lose on penalties, while Belgium went out of the tournament at the hands of eventual winners Italy with a 2-1 quarter-final loss.

France's attack the key factor

Belgium may be the no.1-ranked side in the world but their ageing defence was an obvious shortcoming at the Euro finals and this flaw has yet to be addressed. A back line containing Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen may boast plenty of experience but its best days are behind it.

The chances of Belgium shutting-out a France attack comprising Karim Kenzema, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are slim. The clear superiority of France's front line relative to Belgium's back line is the primary reason France's favouritism is justified. Didier Deschamps' side are 2.64 to win, with Belgium 3.15 and The Draw 3.25.

France's favoured front trio have scored nine of France's last 14 goals. They have so much ability the chances of at least one of them finding the net are good. Latest reports suggest all three will start. If they do, France will be the better bet to win in 90 minutes.

Les Bleus' risky tactics

Tactically, however, France may use a back three, and that would be a concern. Such tactics have yet to be stress-tested: they were disastrous in that Last-16 defeat to Switzerland, and the players remain instinctively more comfortable with the 4-2-3-1 shape manager Didier Deschamps has primarily favoured in recent years.

A three-man defence comprising Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez would be vulnerable purely on the basis of the trio's lack of experience of playing as a unit. The front-foot football Belgium play in every game under Martinez (pictured below) should ensure Belgium cause France problems at some point. In Romelu Lukaku, the underdogs boast a striker that has scored 27 times in his last 26 internationals.

The potential for attacks to be stronger than defences on both sides makes going high an appealing option on the goals markets. Over 2.5 Goals is 2.4, with Unders the much shorter 1.7. 'Yes' is available in the Both teams to Score? market at 2.00, with 'No' at 1.93.

Fiery clash on the cards

As a derby, Belgium vs France is traditionally a hotly-contested fixture. With Belgium out for revenge, this time it may be fierier than usual. Backing 40pts or higher on the bookings markets may be worth considering (yellow card = 10pts, red card = 25pts).

France's card count often rises when the stakes are higher. At Euro 2020, Deschamps' players picked up four yellow cards vs Switzerland, and four in their 2-2 group-stage draw vs Portugal. There were three bookings for France in their Nations League clash against Portugal last year.

In that semi-final back in 2018 that Belgium are so keen to seek revenge for, there were five bookings: three for Belgium, and two for France. A similar outcome would be no surprise this time around.

Split your stakes across our two selections in the Card Index market and you'll make a profit if one of them comes in.

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