Brazil vs. England: Key Battles to Watch

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJanuary 31, 2013

Brazil vs. England: Key Battles to Watch

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    Next Wednesday evening, Brazil will take on England at Wembley Stadium in what will be manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's first game at the helm since returning to the role in December.

    Scolari has already named his squad, while Roy Hodgson will do likewise later on Thursday, giving us a greater idea of what to expect from the two sides when they eventually line up next week.

    While international football is a team game, it is a game often settled by individuals and their personal battles, as some of the best players in the world go head-to-head over 90 minutes.

    So, as Brazil bring their new look side to British shores, in which areas will their game with England be won and lost?

Paulinho vs. Steven Gerrard

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    England captain Steven Gerrard has had a quiet season under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, but has enjoyed a good year at the international level after impressing at Euro 2012.

    Brazil, then, will need to ensure that the central midfielder is not given time on the ball to pick a ball into the area and that responsibility will likely fall upon the shoulders of Paulinho, or teammate Ramires.

    The box-to-box Corinthians player must work hard to stick to Gerrard and prevent him influencing the game, but must also try to pin the Liverpool player back.

    Paulinho is known for his late runs into goalscoring positions and this is an area he could reap rewards should Gerrard fail in his defensive responsibilities.

    The game could be won or lost as a direct result of the centre of midfield battle.

Neymar vs. Glen Johnson

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    The eyes of 90,000 supporters will be on Neymar next week, as Wembley savours its latest opportunity to witness the sublime talents of the Santos forward.

    Charged with limiting his impact on this occasion will be Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson, as the attacker looks to influence proceedings from his regular left inside-forward position.

    Johnson is a much-improved player defensively and will need to be on top of his game to deal with the Brazilian on current form. Neymar may yet be to fully get into his stride this year, but he has looked ominously good in recent state championship fixtures.

    It will be a big test of Johnson's abilities both positionally and in terms of judgement. He may get some joy if he is allowed to push forward unmarked, but must weigh up the risks of leaving the dangerous Neymar in space behind him.

Ronaldinho vs. Michael Carrick

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    Iconic Brazilian No. 10 Ronaldinho will return to the international fray next week after an absence of 18 months and is likely to start for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side ahead of Chelsea star Oscar.

    His opposite number for the encounter is likely to be in-form Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick, another who maybe lacks pace but will also require close attention.

    Carrick's task defensively will be to negate the influence of Ronaldinho. When afforded time and space, the Atlético Mineiro man has proved himself in Brazil over the past 12 months, and the large pitch at Wembley will suit him if Carrick does not close him down immediately.

    The reverse is also true.

    If England can establish a foothold in midfield, Carrick can start to exert his influence on the game and Ronaldinho, who found the pace of international football so tough on his last return, will have to ensure he does not neglect his defensive duties entirely.

Miranda vs. Danny Welbeck

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    This remains a far from certain matchup, with neither player certain of his place in the starting lineup for next week's game. However, the same principle would remain for their possible replacements.

    Given recent England team selections and current media opinion in Brazil, though, it is a matchup that may well take place.

    Both players have much to prove at international level and the game at Wembley offers them the perfect stage on which to shine.

    For Welbeck, he must once more look to prove that he can lead a forward line at international level—something he has done well up until now.

    Meanwhile, Atlético Madrid defender Miranda faces a similar challenge to establish himself, having been out of the international setup for some time.

    Both players need to turn in good performances to secure their immediate international futures and that will mean overcoming their direct opposite number on the night.

Fred vs. Phil Jagielka

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    England look set to name Everton's Phil Jagielka and Chelsea's Gary Cahill at centre-back to face Brazil, just as they have in recent fixtures, and they will likely come up against former Lyon striker and 2012 Brasileirão top scorer Fred on the night.

    Fred has enjoyed a fine time of things over the past 18 months in Brazil, but doubts remain over his suitability at international level after poor previous performances.

    Now, coming up against two relatively inexperienced defenders at international level, he must prove that he is worthy of continued selection ahead of upcoming major tournaments. Play poorly, though, and Leandro Damião can expect to return to the first-team setup fairly quickly.

    For Jagielka, the time is now right to prove himself at the top level. He has only recently become first choice for England and, with just 18 months remaining until the World Cup, it is time for him to state his case.