Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has named his starting eleven to face the Netherlands in tonight’s Derby der Lage Landen (Derby des pays plats). The major talking point is the selection of Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in place of Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet. While Mignolet has been a consistent performer for both club and country rarely letting anyone down, there is no denying the sheer class of Courtois, loaned out to Spain by Chelsea. He kept 23 clean sheets last season and helped Atleti to the Europa League, confirming the potential he showed in Racing Genk’s title-winning side of 2010-11.
The other slight surprise is Nacer Chadli receiving the nod on the right flank ahead of fellow Eredivisie star Dries Mertens. Form may well have been a factor as Chadli starred in Twente’s 4-1 win over Groningen last weekend, netting a brace. Kevin Mirallas, who if you believe the media is bound for Everton, continues on the left flank, from which he has scored so freely for Olympiacos.
Guillaume Gillet and Jan Vertonghen continue in the full-back positions despite neither playing there for their respective clubs, Daniel van Buyten replaces absent skipper Vincent Kompany, Steven Defour is the deepest midfielder behind Axel Witsel with Eden Hazard given a playmaking role while Christian Benteke has displaced Romelu Lukaku as the first-choice out-and-out striker.
Louis van Gaal hands a debut from the start to Ajax defender Ricardo van Rhijn in an eleven that was named yesterday. There is much anticipation ahead of Adam Maher’s bow on the international stage ; the AZ man having opted to play for the Netherlands over Morocco.
Belgium: Courtois ; Gillet, van Buyten, Vermaelen, Vertonghen ; Defour, Witsel, Hazard; Chadli, Benteke; Mirallas
Subs: Mignolet, J-F Gillet, Ciman, Lombaerts, Pocognoli, Alderweireld, Simons, Dembélé, Mertens, De Bruyne, De Camargo, De Ceulaer, Lukaku
Netherlands: Stekelenburg ; van Rhijn, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems ; De Jong ; van der Vaart, Sneijder; Robben, Huntelaar, Narsingh
Subs: Krul, Vorm, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Viergever, Emanuelson, Afellay, Maher, Kuijt, van Persie, Lens, Dost