No timeline for Lukaku's return from thigh injury, Martinez says

Roberto Martinez admits he doesn’t know if Romelu Lukaku will be fit for ANY of Belgium’s World Cup group stage matches – as he confirms Eden Hazard will captain the side in Canada opener, despite not starting a game for over a month

  • Real Madrid forward has struggled for game time for Spanish giants this term
  • Roberto Martinez confirmed he would start and said they are better with him
  • Romelu Lukaku has no timeline for his return having not played in a month 
  • Follow Sportsmail’s live daily World Cup blog for all updates from Qatar

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku will miss his nation’s World Cup opener against Canada on Wednesday night and also could be sidelined for the second match against Morocco.

Lukaku, 29, hasn’t appeared in a match since October 29 because of a left thigh injury and hasn’t played 90 minutes since Inter Milan’s Serie A opener against Lecce on August 13. 

‘We’re very happy the way that he is progressing. He had a very good session yesterday, not with a group, but is progressing in a steady way,’ Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Tuesday. 

There is as yet no timeline for Romelu Lukaku’s return from a thigh injury that has kept him out since October

‘We haven’t got a timeline. I wouldn’t be able to tell if he’s going to be the second game or the third game,’ he said. 

‘If I follow the medical advice, at this point it would be the third game. If I follow how the player feels, probably we’ve got a chance for the second game.’

Captain Eden Hazard will start despite seeing diminished playing time at Real Madrid this season. The 31-year-old has made just two starts – in La Liga on Sept. 11 and in the Champions League on Oct. 11.

‘It’s been a tough situation in terms of the playing minutes,’ Martinez said. ‘We are a better team when Eden Hazard is in our dressing room, that’s for sure.’

Hazard prior to the World Cup kicking off admitted that him leaving Real Madrid in the not-too-distant future is a distinct possibility after struggling for game time this season. 

The Inter Milan forward has faced a difficult 18 months in which he failed to deliver at Chelsea and has not experienced the sort of glorious return in Italy he was anticipating 

His time in the Spanish capital has been marred by injury troubles as well as general concerns over his fitness. After the Champions League success in May, Hazard promised Real Madrid supporters that they would see a much better version of him this season. So far, that has failed to come to fruition with his game time being even more limited. He has only appeared for a total of 229 minutes this season, starting just twice.   

‘I would be lying if I said that it is positive. I do not play. I train. I hardly missed a session. I have no criticism for the coach (Carlo Ancelotti). He gave his explanations in a press conference. It is difficult for him to always answer the same questions,’ Hazard told reporters Sport about his current plight. 

‘We spoke at the beginning of the season. He asked me to do my best. I try. I am at a dead end. I want to play more. I accept this situation. 

Eden Hazard (L) will start and captain the national side despite struggling for game time at Real Madrid

‘I try to show every day in training that I can give more, that I still have good things to give. I try to keep smiling. Sometimes there are mornings when it is more difficult. When I think I’m playing and I’m not. It’s up to me to adapt.’

Meanwhile, he also said: ‘In January it is impossible (to leave), because I have family and I like the city. 

‘But in summer it is possible that I go. I have one more year on my contract and it’s the club’s decision. 

‘If the club tells me “Eden, thanks for four years, but you have to go”, I have to accept it because it’s normal. 

‘But I would like to play more, show more that I can play, that I am a good player.’

Roberto Martinez defended the player and said that they were a better team with him in it 

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