ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Kevin De Bruyne will not play for Belgium in Saturday’s opening group game against Russia at the European Championship because he is still following an individual training program after an operation on his fractured nose and eye socket.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Friday he expects the Manchester City midfielder to join full training with the squad when the players return to their training camp in Tubize, near Brussels, after the game against Russia in St. Petersburg.
“The next two days will be really important, just to get him back to really being able to move freely and start getting the exercise needed before he can come to the group,” Martinez said of De Bruyne, who was recently voted as the Premier League’s player of the season for the second straight year.
De Bruyne only linked up with the squad on Monday after having a minor operation following the injuries sustained during City’s loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.
Belgium’s second game in Group B is against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday, when Martinez expects De Bruyne to play a part.
Another key Belgium player missing against Russia will be defensive midfielder Axel Witsel, who was surprisingly included in the Euro 2020 squad despite missing the final four months of the club season with Borussia Dortmund because of a torn Achilles tendon injury.
Martinez said Witsel, who didn’t play in Belgium’s warmup games ahead of the tournament, was “progressing well” and had been training with the full squad.
“I don’t expect Axel will need a lot more work with the group,” Martinez said.