Belgium - Norway Preview: Red Devils looking to go into Euros with final friendly victory

Belgium take on Norway in their final friendly ahead of Euro 2016, which starts next Friday, looking to go into the tournament in stronger form after a disappointing draw with Finland in midweek.

Belgium - Norway Preview: Red Devils looking to go into Euros with final friendly victory
(Picture: Getty Images)

Belgium will look to go into Euro 2016 in high spirits as they take on Norway in their final warm-up friendly in Brussels on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Devils overcame Switzerland a week ago but required an 89th-minute equaliser from Romelu Lukaku in order to draw 1-1 with minnows Finland on Wednesday.

With Marc Wilmots' men ranked second in the FIFA World Rankings going into the tournament, where they face Italy, Republic of Ireland and Sweden in Group E, hopes are high for such a star-studded squad.

Belgium are expected to, at the absolute minimum, progress from their group and perhaps even reach the semi-final stage - with this squad labelled the country's 'Golden Generation'. 

But they have plenty of improvement to do to live up to expectation, even for a nation that are yet to win a major tournament in their history, with recent performances below-par.

Batshuayi and Origi could make way for Lukaku and Mertens on Sunday. (Picture: Getty Images)
Batshuayi and Origi could make way for Lukaku and Mertens on Sunday. (Picture: Getty Images)

Against Norway, Wilmots is likely to field a line-up close to the one he intends to start against Italy in their opening Euro 2016 fixture, with it probable that he will choose to experiment with a new back-line.

Recently, the Belgium boss has deployed Tottenham Hotspur centre-back partnership Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as makeshift full-backs with Jason Denayer partnering the more experienced Thomas Vermaelen in the centre.

But in recent training sessions, Wilmots has swapped Alderweireled for Vermaelen - who has been suffering from a minor calf problem - with Vertonghen staying at left-back, Denayer reamining central and Laurent Ciman coming in on the right.

That's the set-up which the 47-year-old is expected to use at the 50-000-seater King Baudouin Stadium, while Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini will both be absent with knocks.

Red Devils keen to end warm-up schedule strongly

Elsewhere, Belgium will be at full-strength as they look to send themselves into the Euros in strong form - a friendly loss to Portugal in March the only defeat they have suffered in eight matches since June 2015.

Stand-in captain Eden Hazard was unconcerned about their draw with 67th-ranked Finland, insisting they performed well and dismissed it as a game in which they simply failed to make the most of their chances, but nevertheless there are worries Belgium could once again fail to live up to the billing.

Wilmots is likely to experiment with a new defence against Norway. (Picture: Getty Images)
Wilmots is likely to experiment with a new defence against Norway. (Picture: Getty Images)

That was the story in the 2014 World Cup, when the Red Devils fell to Argentina in the quarter-finals having won all three group games and then squeezed past United States after extra-time in the Round of 16.

Since then, Wilmots' side have undoubtedly improved - their key players developing into some of the brightest stars across Europe. Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku two of the most obvious examples.

Though they have weaknesses, particularly at full-back, and with captain Vincent Kompany absent through injury - Belgium have quality in abundance and simply must ensure that their team can gel together in the final third.

They will therefore hope to demonstrate that, even if in flashes, against Norway, who beat qualifiers Iceland 3-2 in Oslo earlier this week just four days after losing 3-0 to Portugal.

Form suggests they should pose a sterner test than previous opponents, having cruised past Finland in a 2-0 win three months ago and with this their final opportunity to impress before they begin their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, taking on Germany in their first game.

That may mean several Norwegians are keen to put on a good show, making it even tougher for a Belgium side who know that they need to start delivering - and quick - if this summer is going to be theirs.