Belgium coach Roberto Martinez speaks during a press conference at the 2018 soccer World Cup, at the Kaliningrad stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Belgium players with yellow cards unlikely to face England

June 27, 2018 - 3:46 pm
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KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) — If you're from Belgium and have a yellow card, you're not likely to be playing on Thursday.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Wednesday he didn't expect to use any of his players currently with a yellow card against England.

"I don't think it would be professional from us to put those players in a risk to miss the knockout phase," Martinez said.

Players who amass two yellow cards in the three group matches will miss the following game. Both Belgium and England have already qualified for the round of 16, making Thursday's game less important for both.

Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Meunier all picked up yellow cards in Belgium's opening 3-0 win over Panama.

"Tomorrow the priority is not to win," Martinez said.

The only thing at stake is first place in Group G, so Martinez is expected to give some playing time to squad members who have so far spent most or all of their time on the bench.

"I think tomorrow's a celebration," Martinez said. "Two teams can celebrate being qualified for the knockout phase."

England coach Gareth Southgate may also make changes, but said he wants his team to keep its winning momentum.

The only position Martinez definitely won't be changing is his goalkeeper, saying he believes continuity is important for Thibaut Courtois.

Another Belgium player unlikely to start is Romelu Lukaku, who has four goals from two games. The Manchester United striker picked up a leg injury against Tunisia and limped off after an hour.

A scan showed no serious damage, but Martinez said his top striker is still recovering.

"Probably," Martinez said, "tomorrow is one day too early."

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