COLOGNE, Germany : Belgium will be without defender Axel Witsel for their European Championship Group E meeting with in-form Romania on Saturday, as coach Domenico Tedesco backed striker Romelu Lukaku to put his Slovakia nightmare behind him.

Witsel suffered a recurrence of the injury that kept him out of Belgium’s 1-0 loss to the Slovakians, a game in which they had 15 attempts at goal and the ball in the back of the net twice, only to be denied on both occasions by the VAR.

“He (Witsel) felt a small problem in the same area,” Tedesco told reporters. “His tournament is not over, we will do an MRI tomorrow. We hope it is nothing very serious, but we can’t take any risks. Everybody else is ready.”

Lukaku was the unlucky forward to have both goals ruled out against Slovakia, and missed several other big chances, but Tedesco has no concerns over his form ahead of the meeting with Romania.

“We spoke about it yesterday after training, but we always speak because he is one of the main players in the squad,” Tedesco said. “It is important what he is thinking, I ask him a lot for his opinion.

“He just needs to score one goal (and more will come), and he did in fact, twice, but they were cancelled. We all want him to score six goals from six chances, but that is not realistic, even if he has the quality to do it.”

Romania will present a mighty challenge to Belgium with their 13-game unbeaten run in competitive fixtures that culminated in an impressive 3-0 success against Ukraine in their group opener.

“We have watched eight games of Romania,” Tedesco said. “They can really suffer together, they can stay deep, they don’t complain, they don’t care, they don’t take risks, they just play long balls.

“They are strong on second balls, they have the power and if you play like this, you minimise the risk of conceding goals. They only conceded five times in the qualifiers.”

Another defeat for Belgium would leave their Euro 2024 hopes hanging by a threat, but Tedesco said his side go into the game without fear.

“We never think about losing, only winning,” he said. “We want to achieve something here (in Germany) and if we can pass through the group stage, I have a good feeling, that is the truth.

“We are not afraid of anyone, even if we have a big respect for every opponent.”


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