England trio relishing Belgium clash against Tottenham club mates

Tuesday 26 Jun 2018
(l-r) Tottenham trio Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose share a joke at England training

There will be an overwhelming sense of familiarity when England and Belgium battle it out for top spot in Group G on Thursday night.

Both sides have already qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup so whether Gareth Southgate or Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez decide to tinker with their line-ups remains to be seen.

England v Belgium
  • FIFA World Cup
  • Group G
  • 7pm, Thursday 28 June
  • Kaliningrad Stadium, Russia
But as 12 of Belgium’s 23-man squad ply their trade in the Premier League there will be little in the way of surprises for either camp, regardless of the starting XIs that take to the field in Kaliningrad.

Tottenham Hotspur provide eight players across the two squads, the most of any club team. And three of England’s Spurs contingent cannot wait to come up against club mates Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele.

Mousa Dembele is a key player for Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs

Captain Harry Kane, the top scorer at Russia 2018, said: “There was a bit of banter about it when the draw was made and we all had a good laugh about it.

“They are all good lads and good mates of mine. We obviously spend a lot of time together so it will be a bit strange to come up against them but it’s part of the job.

“We’re all looking forward to it.”

Spurs and England No20 Dele Alli was less hospitable towards the Belgian trio.

He said: “It’s going to be a good game – if we win!

“They are great guys and you want to see them do well but when you step on the pitch friendship goes out of the window for 90 minutes.

“There was a bit of a joke back at Spurs but once we cross that white line we are Lions and we want to kill.”

Meanwhile, midfielder Eric Dier explained how peculiar it will be for him to line-up against players he considers to be good friends.

He said: “It’s going to be strange to be playing against them.

“There’s something nice about it as well, though, playing against them in such a big competition.

“I’ve not played against too many club mates at international level before. I’ve played against Hugo [Lloris] and Ben Davies but it hasn’t happened that regularly so it will definitely be a bit strange.”

Jan Vertonghen (left) and Romelu Lukaku are two Premier League stars

Belgium defender Vertonghen is expecting a stern examination from Kane, a striker he knows all too well.

He added: “For me, he’s one of the best strikers in the world.

“He’s very ambitious, he’s a leader and he works on every aspect of his game. I think he’s a great player.

“He’s the image of the new England. I’m happy he’s doing well, hopefully not so well on Thursday, but I’m very happy he’s part of the new England.”

Watch England v Belgium live on ITV 1 and the ITV Player.

By Glenn Lavery