Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco says he will have no hesitation throwing Romelu Lukaku into the attack for Saturday’s European Championship qualifier away against Azerbaijan even if the striker has only played 20 minutes this season.
The 30-year-old striker, whose 75 goals in 108 matches for Belgium make him the country’s top goalscorer, moved on loan from Chelsea to AS Roma days before the recent transfer window closed and had his first run out off the bench on Sept. 1 when his side lost at home to AC Milan.
“Romelu is ready to play,” was the emphatic message from Tedesco at the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“He may not have played much with Roma but he has always stayed fit. Even if he hadn’t played with Roma he would have started. He is our captain and a very important player.”
Lukaku, however, is unlikely to play the full game.
“I don’t think Lukaku can play 90 minutes,” added Tedesco. “Players who have played for their club obviously have an advantage. But someone like Youri Tielemans can certainly play too. He has had a good preparation. He has the rhythm, so he can play. It is his coach at Aston Villa who does not field him but he is ready.”
Tielemans moved to Villa from relegated Leicester City and has only appeared off the bench in the Premier League this season.
Belgium, however, must do without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfield general Kevin De Bruyne, who Tedesco said was irreplaceable.
“We cannot replace him one-on-one. We have to take care of his role collectively,” said the coach.
Courtois, who has a long-term knee injury, will be replaced by Koen Casteels. De Bruyne had surgery recently on his hamstring.
Belgium has won two and drawn one in their opening three matches in Euro 2024 qualifying Group F. Austria tops the table with 10 points from four games while Azerbaijan is bottom with one point from their three matches.
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