SEVILLE, Spain (AP) — Kevin De Bruyne is back, and Belgium coach Roberto Martinez expects him to be at his best this weekend.
The Belgians will face Portugal on Sunday in Seville in the round of 16 of the European Championship.
Martinez said Friday that De Bruyne, along with Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel, have fully recovered from their injuries.
“We’ve got real good momentum,” Martinez said. “I feel that (Kevin) is in the perfect physical condition to go into this game. And I could say the same for Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard. These three players were the three players that were not available for the friendlies (before Euro 2020).”
Martinez said they all improved their fitness during the group stage and showed they are ready to play in the last 16.
“It’s been really good during the group phase, we won the nine points and we got every player ready to play,” Martinez said. “And that’s how I feel that we are going to Seville, everyone is ready.”
De Bruyne arrived at Euro 2020 recovering from a facial injury sustained in a collision in Manchester City’s loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final.
He didn’t play in the first game against Russia, then came in for the second half against Denmark and played nearly the entire match against Finland, going off in stoppage time.
“Kevin will have a normal role, an influential role,” Martinez said. “He’s not a player that needs to play in a certain position. (We need) to give him that opportunity to be the playmaker.”
Hazard, who was marred by injuries with Real Madrid this season, came in as a second-half substitute against Russia and Denmark, then started in the final group match against Finland. Witsel didn’t play against Russia but saw minutes against Denmark before starting against Finland.
Facing defending champion Portugal means facing Cristiano Ronaldo, but Martinez is preparing for more than just one player.
“We will have to be patient against a really good resolute and well-defensively structured Portugal team,” Martinez said. “But I think that we are going to see ourselves do what we always do.”
Ronaldo is one goal from breaking the overall men’s scoring record in international soccer. He has already scored five times at Euro 2020 to move level with former Iran striker Ali Daei with 109 goals.
“Of course we respect Cristiano Ronaldo, but the game will be about defending well as a group against everyone, not just one player,” Martinez said. “We don’t concentrate in just one threat.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni