Two of the world’s greatest football nations prepare to continue their long-standing rivalry with another episode in which the main roles will be assigned to two great friends and Barcelona teammates – Neymar and Messi. A great game is expected in Belo Horizonte and one of great importance as well given the two teams’ position on the table.
After ten games in the South American 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying group Brazil are topping the chart with six wins and 21 points. Followed by Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile, Neymar and co. are heading into the Argentina duel feeling optimistic regarding their chances and looking to extend their positive run which saw them notch four consecutive triumph following the Copa America loss to Peru. The Selecao are keen to build up on the last year’s 1-1 draw in Buenos Aires when Lucas Lima cancelled Lavezzi’s opener to earn a point on that particular occasion. Brazil return to Belo Horizonte for the first time since that emotional 7-1 defeat to Germany at World Cup 2014 and Tite’s men will be obliged to put in their best performance on the day to make amends to the home supporters. The Superclasico is chronically a fiercely contested affair and Brazil will be hopeful their in-form players such as Philippe Coutinho, Firmino and Manchester City-bound youngster Gabriel Jesus will be able to lead the line towards what would be a highly significant win.
Chelsea midfielder Oscar has been left out of the squad for Argentina game, while his teammate Willian has been relegated to bench with the emerging form of Liverpool key man Coutinho. Brazil head coach Tite has made only one change to his squad however, having called up Sao Paulo’s Rodrigo Caio to act as support and possible replacement for Casemiro, who broke a bone in his leg last month.
Messi’s return a timely boost for Argentina
Having won only one in their last five matches, Argentina find themselves in a very tough position. The Albiceleste have dropped to sixth place in COMNEBOL qualifying following FIFA’s decision to punish Bolivia for fielding an ineligible player which did not work in Barcelona’s favour. As things stand right now, Argentina are at the crossroads of their qualifying campaign which will send top four teams directly to the finals in Russia whereas the fifth-placed team will enter the inter-confederation playoff. Three points from the forthcoming duel would not only improve Argentina’s standings, but they will also have a huge impact to team’s morale. Contrary to the previous meeting between two great rivals, Leo Messi is back in Argentina squad and his return will have been a big push for the rest of the squad. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero will be hoping to shut the critics who singled Kun as the main culprit for the team’s draw in Peru and a 1-0 defeat to Paraguay in Buenos Aires earlier in October. Edgardo Bauza could decide to shuffle his deck for the occasion as he takes his team to quite a task in Belo Horizonte.
Leo Messi’s inclusion is a timely boost for the team ahead of the trip to Brazil, while head coach Bauza decided to omit Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo. Racing midfielder Marcos Acuna and Sao Paulo defender Julio Buffarii are the only two new names in the squad.
Tradition is well against the visiting team, who need to be at their best in order to keep their hopes of beating in-form Brazilians alive. Leo Messi will make a huge difference and his return after a three-game break should be a big boost for Bauza’s team. Brazil, on the other hand want a win to make another step closer to securing their Russian visa and three points from the Superclasico are always of special significance.
Top pick: Both teams to score 2.00 (1/1) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 1: Brazil 2.10 (11/10) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Messi to score anytime 2.80 (9/5) @PaddyPower