Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has suggested Kevin De Bruyne may have to settle for a place on the bench on his return to the squad.
De Bruyne missed last month’s World Cup qualifying matches against Bosnia and Gibraltar with a hamstring injury and Napoli midfielder Dries Mertens impressed in his absence.
The Manchester City man has been a shining light in Pep Guardiola’s new-look team this season, scoring twice and providing six assists in 10 Premier League games.
But Martinez is not convinced he will start for Belgium in their upcoming friendly in Holland or the World Cup qualifier against Estonia.
The former Everton manager told FIFA.com: “It’s a big problem. Kevin is having probably the best season of his career. We couldn’t wait until he was fit again.
“But Dries Mertens has done exceptionally well. He was probably our most impressive player in recent matches. And he’s been doing well for his club. Dries is in good form and we should take advantage of this.”
De Bruyne’s club team-mate Vincent Kompany is also back in the Belgium squad after an injury absence.
The 30-year-old has made three appearances for Manchester City this season since recovering from a groin injury and while Martinez is pleased to have him back, he is aware he has to manage his comeback carefully.
He said: “We’re in good communication with Manchester City. We’ve really gone into detail with Vincent and he’s ready. The amount of minutes will depend on the need of the games but we’ll never put the programme he has at risk.
“We’re really looking forward to getting him back to the group. He’s an experienced player and I want him to see the new settings. His experience will be good for some of the young players.”
Robben absent for Holland
Holland winger Arjen Robben will miss Wednesday night’s friendly with Belgium in order to undergo extra training with Bayern Munich, and he does so with the blessing of national coach Danny Blind.
Robben, 32, spent Monday and Tuesday taking part in training sessions with Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti but he will join the Dutch squad for their crucial World Cup qualifying match against Luxembourg on Sunday.
“I want Robben 100 per cent against Luxembourg,” said Blind.