Belgium kick-off their World Cup campaign against Algeria but while the Red Devils head into the game as favourites, they will have to do the job without Christian Benteke.
Ruled out after rupturing his Achilles tendon on club duty, Belgium didn’t just lose their first choice striker, they lost the linchpin for much of their forward play.
A goalscorer on his friendly debut against Holland, Benteke became the focal point of Belgium’s attack under Marc Wilmots, with Romelu Lukaku forced to play second fiddle to his Premier League counterpart.
But with Benteke absent can Lukaku come to the fore or will Belgium buckle under the weight of expectation? We look at the stats from last season in the Premier League to find the answers.
Shots at goal per game
|Team||Pos||Total Scoring Att / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||2.58||26||2,128|
Benteke may be the man who leads the line for Aston Villa, but it's Lukaku who managed more shots per game last season, averaging roughly one more than the Villa man every six games.
Shots on target per game
|Team||Pos||Ontarget Scoring Att / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||1.08||26||2,128|
Once again, Lukaku came out on top last term, with a notably superior on target average per game during the Premier League season. By contrast, Benteke managed slightly more shots off target on average last term, a statistic that further highlights Lukaku's superiority when it comes to shooting.
|Team||Pos||Shot Off Target / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||0.96||26||2,128|
However a further analysis of the pair, which considers the crucial aerial role of the lone striker, highlights some rather interesting findings.
Average headed goal per game
Benteke may struggle to find the goal as accurately with the ball on the deck, but when it comes to headers, there's only one winner with the Villa man averaging nearly one headed goal every five games, compared with Lukaku's average of one every ten last term.
|Team||Pos||Att Hd Goal / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||0.19||26||2,128|
Benteke's aerial ability shone through in other areas of his game last term, particularly in the number of battles fought and won in the air - something that could be crucial for Belgium in Brazil.
Average Aerial Battles Won
|Team||Pos||Aerial Won / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||8.81||26||2,128|
The Villa man won a high proportion of aerial tussles for Villa last term and with an average per appearance ratio that is some three times better than Lukaku's, the Red Devils could be negatively affected by the potential lack of aerial presence - a surprising concern given Lukaku's physical build.
Average headed passes
A look at the stats in the air certainly highlights Benteke's strengths and just why Wilmots was banking on the 23-year-old to lead the line on his own. Completing roughly three times as many passes with his head, the Villa man is vastly superior to Lukaku.
|Team||Pos||Head Pass / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||12.46||26||2,128|
Lukaku may boast the superior stats in terms of shooting and hitting the target, but the gulf in data when it comes to analysing work in the air highlights a far greater gap in quality between Lukaku and Benteke.
Benteke may be slightly inferior when it comes to shooting and hitting the target, but Lukaku's poor heading and aerial play is a stark contrast to that of Benteke - something that does not bode well for Belgium's chances.