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Brazil are sure to miss Barcelona forward Neymar for their global tour friendly against Argentina at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday. However, the Selecao still have enough quality up front to score goals against La Albiceleste in Australia.
The quality comes from Chelsea forward Willian, along with Liverpoolplaymaker Philippe Coutinho. Of course, new Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli can call on Neymar’s club team-mate Lionel Messi to help get one over on the old enemy.
Before a preview, here are the schedule and viewing details:
Date: Friday, June 9
Time: 11:05 a.m. BST, 6:05 a.m. ET
TV Info: beIN Sports.
Live Stream: beIN Sports CONNECT, fuboTV
Sampaoli left La Liga side Sevilla for the chance to work with Messi, with the new coach revealing the prolific No. 10 is looking forward to Argentina’s new era, per BBC Sport: “I spoke with Leo and we’re both excited. It’s a boost for us to see how excited he is with this new stage (for Argentina).”
Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press
Bringing the best out of Messi at international level will require Sampaoli putting the right mix of attacking players around him. It’s something previous Argentina managers have consistently struggled to do.
One player sure to bring out the best in any forward is Paris Saint-Germain schemer Angel Di Maria. In fact, Messi is said to want the former Real Madrid man to join him at Barcelona next season, per French publicationLe Parisien (h/t David Wright of the Daily Express).
Di Maria’s combination play with Messi is astute and fluid enough to pose major problems for a Brazil defence led by savvy 32-year-old Thiago Silva and Chelsea man David Luiz.
MAL FAIRCLOUGH/Getty Images
However, Sampaoli’s bigger concern will be whether his own defence can withstand Brazil’s attacking prowess. Willian doesn’t believe La Albiceleste can, even in Neymar’s absence, per Goal:
“Of course, to be missing Neymar for this game is difficult because we know what quality he provides to us. But I think we have enough players to make up for the difference. We have a great team, a great squad, so we have to show that on Friday.”
The success of Brazil’s forays forward will depend heavily on Coutinho’s vision helping to release the speed of Willian in behind. Pace from wide areas should be the Selecao’s best route to goal, with Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa also likely to be a major threat after a solid season at club level.Costa scored seven goals and supplied six assists in all competitions for Bayern, per WhoScored.com. He has the quickness and timing with his runs to overwhelm a suspect Argentina defence led by Manchester Citycentre-back Nicolas Otamendi.
LIONEL Messi will start in Friday’s Superclasico against Brazil at the MCG, as tension rises in the Argentina camp.
New Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli ordered a FIFA World Cup-style lockdown on Wednesday as he conducted his first session with the entire 26-man squad.
Star Juventus duo Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, who played in Sunday’s UEFA Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, trained along with six Argentina-based players who were last to join the squad.
The closed session at Melbourne City’s Bundoora base followed on from Monday and Tuesday’s sessions which were open to media only for 15 minutes, akin to a major tournaments.
It contrasts to the approach of relaxed but no less serious Brazil, whose intensive training has been open to the media at Lakeside Stadium while the world’s No.1 team have also provided two players to the media at the end of each session.
Argentina’s covert operation underlines the pressure the squad, particularly Messi and Sampaoli, are under, with the two-time World Cup winners having failed to qualify just once, back in 1970.
All this with a backdrop of a media boycott, stemming from a radio report last November alleging that Ezequiel Lavezzi — who was not selected for this tour — was smoking marijuana after training.
Messi has led the boycott, fronting a press conference flanked by the entire squad announcing the protest.
“We have decided not to speak any more with the press,” Messi said after they beat Colombia.
“We’re very sorry it has to be like this but we have no option. Getting into one’s personal life is very grave and that’s why we’re here (announcing this).’’
The bizarre situation adds intrigue and tension, with their last camp ending with the sacking of Edgardo Bauza after a 2-0 loss to Bolivia, which left Argentina in fifth — which is a playoff spot — and 11 points behind leaders Brazil.
While the focus is Argentina’s precariously-placed World Cup spot, Sampaoli will be under immense pressure if his full-strength team loses to Neymar-less Brazil in his unveiling.
Having never coached in Argentina’s top flight (he’s only managed Peruvian and Chilean club sides), Sampaoli is less popular with the fanatical fans than he is with the local media despite his impressive record.
The Argentine native coached Chile at the last World Cup and led Chile to their first Copa America final win, in 2015, beating Argentina in the final.
Sampaoli, who is noted for a high-tempo, possession-based, attacking style, is eager to see Messi operate in his game plan as he prepares for one of the most eagerly-awaited coaching debuts in international football.