David Luiz and Fernando Torres will have to put their friendship aside during the 2013 Confederations Cup final. The winner of the individual battle between the Chelsea teammates could decide the game.
Torres had a forgettable performance in the semifinal against Italy. He had a couple of golden chances that came to nothing. Then, toward the end of the match, he was too gassed to make any sort of impact.
On the other side, Luiz has been a bit up and down in this tournament. There have been more than a few times when his defensive deficiencies were there for all to see.
If Torres has another poor match, Spain will struggle in the final third, as they'll lack that out-and-out finisher. Andres Iniesta was getting the most chances on goal against Italy, and that's generally not a good sign.
Torres could find his form against a suspect Luiz. Of course, this hinges on whether or not he'll play. Vicente del Bosque could select either Cesc Fabregas or Roberto Soldado in place of Torres. Should Torres play, it should be a fun matchup to watch considering how well the two players know each other.
If he doesn't, it will still be intriguing to see if the Spain centre-forward is able to take advantage of Luiz.
Here are three other matchups that will determine the outcome of the Confederations Cup final.
Marcelo vs. Jesus Navas
When Jesus Navas was inserted in the semifinal, he brought some much-needed width to Spain. It was fitting that he scored the winning penalty, because the 27-year-old winger was arguably the best player on the pitch.
It's going to be very interesting to see if he'll get the start against Brazil. At this point, Bosque would be crazy not to put Navas out there from the opening whistle.
Part of the reason is that he'll be lining up against Marcelo. The Brazilian left-back will leave a lot of space open down the flank as he makes his forward runs. He's definitely there to be exploited.
Then again, Marcelo has the talent and quickness to get back and defend if he sets his mind to it. You still wouldn't bet against the Spanish winger having a field day during the final.
Plus, it's not like Neymar is going to track back and cover for Marcelo when Navas is running down the right.
Jordi Alba vs. Neymar
Defense and diving aside, Neymar has been tremendous in this tournament. He's been both a creator and a finisher. The 21-year-old winger scored a goal in each of Brazil's three group stage matches, then had a huge role in the two they scored in the semifinal.
If Brazil are going to get the win in this match, they'll need another strong performance from Neymar.
In order to stop him, Spain will call upon Alvaro Arbeloa. That's not exactly a favorable matchup for La Roja. Not to mention Arbeloa will also have to watch out for Marcelo making those runs down the flank as well.
Neymar isn't a player who will look to deliver in crosses from the left, but he could still make the most of space down the left when he makes his cuts to the inside. Neymar could draw in the centre-back or defensive midfielder, thus creating more space for himself if can get past his man, or give his teammate a lot more room to roam.
Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets vs. Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho
It's hard to break this matchup down to individuals. With as much activity as there will be on the pitch, you're going to see a flurry of activity in the central midfield.
Everyone knows how pivotal the duo of Xavi and Iniesta are to Spain. They're the engine that makes the attack go. And Sergio Busquets is the last line of defense before the opposition's attack gets to the back four.
We saw during the semifinal what can happen when Busquets is stretched all over the pitch. Spain were exposed multiple times defensively because they couldn't cope with Italy's width. Xavi and Iniesta couldn't get a foothold on the game as a result.
On the other side of the pitch, you've got Luiz Gustavo, who is a very underrated defensive midfielder, and Paulinho, who's been one of the best players of the tournament.
It's going to be up to Gustavo to try to disrupt the Spanish midfield. Meanwhile, Paulinho will be the creator and link between the back four and forwards higher up the pitch. If Busquets can take Paulinho out of the match, Brazil will have a hard time creating anything that doesn't involve passing it out to Neymar on the left.
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