Soccer-Boost for Belgium’s injured players but concerns remain over defensive options

Soccer Football - Europa League - Group B - AEK Larnaca v Stade Rennes - AEK Arena, Larnaca, Cyprus - September 8, 2022 Stade Rennes' Arthur Theate celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou/ File Photo

FREIBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Belgium’s bid to get key defenders Arthur Theate and Jan Vertonghen fit for the European Championship took a positive step on Friday when they increased the intensity of their training at the team camp in Germany.

Youri Tielemans, who was also an injury concern when the squad was named last month, is back to full training but veteran Axel Witsel looks likely to miss out when Belgium kick off their campaign against Slovakia in Frankfurt on Monday.

Coach Domenico Tedesco previously said he was prepared to wait until well into the tournament in Germany for both Theate, one of the few left-back options, and Vertonghen, the country’s most capped player, to be fit.

While they are not expected to play on Monday, they increased their work load from individual training over the last weeks to taking part in the team warm-up on Thursday and doing ball work with the squad on Friday in an obvious set of progressive steps.

Tielemans was back in full training from Wednesday but Witsel dropped out of training on Friday with an unspecified injury.

The 35-year-old Witsel was called out of retirement to play in Germany, adding to the defensive options after impressing in defence for Atletico Madrid this season.

But with fullback Thomas Meunier already ruled out for Monday, after he was hurt in the friendly against Luxembourg, options at the back are looking thin for Tedesco as he ponders his line-up for their opening Group E game.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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