Brazil vs. Argentina: Key Battles to Watch, Predictions for 2017 Friendly Match

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyContributor IJune 6, 2017

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 06:  Lionel Messi of Argentina has a laugh during an Argentina Training Session at City Football Academy on June 6, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Jorge Sampaoli kicks off his tenure as Argentina coach with a friendly against Brazil at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia, on Friday. 

The former Sevilla coach has replaced Edgardo Bauza, becoming La Albiceleste's third manager of this World Cup qualifying campaign, and he will be charged with reviving their flagging hopes of making it to the tournament in Russia next year with the side fifth in the group.

Argentina must wait until August to resume their qualifying campaign, but in the meantime take on a Brazil team who have made light work of the process. Tite's side became the first country to qualify for the 2018 World Cup back in March and top South America qualifying, nine points clear with 10 wins from 14 games. That run also included a 3-0 win over Argentina back in November thanks to goals from Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho.

Brazil's Neymar (2-L) celebrates after scoring the team's second goal against Argentina during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 10, 2016. / AFP / AFP AND DOUGLAS MAGNO / DOUGLAS MAGNO        (Photo
DOUGLAS MAGNO/Getty Images

However, Tite has taken the chance to give some of his regulars some time off with Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Dani Alves, Marcelo and Marquinhos excused the long trip to Australia, as per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN FC). The squad is still packed with star names, though, such as Alex Sandro, Coutinho, Willian and Douglas Costa, while Gabriel Jesus also returns after injury.

Argentina, meanwhile, will have Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain available despite their Champions League final commitments, per Goal. Sampaoli has also admitted he wants to get the very best out of Lionel Messi at international level.

"I had to coach Messi," Sampaoli he said via Marca. "We want the best player in the world to feel happy here, and the important thing is that Messi has compatible players. I talked to him yesterday and he's excited."

Messi's Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano will miss the clash after being ruled out with a knee injury picked up in the Copa del Rey final win against Alaves.

     

Key battles

Thiago Silva vs. Argentina attack

Thiago Silva is being tipped to make a rare start for Brazil in the heart of the defence. He's managed fewer than 50 minutes in two years for his country, per football writer Rupert Fryer

No matter who Sampaoli selects you expect the 32-year-old will be in for a busy game.

Silva has a point to prove at international level and also against Messi. The last time he faced the Argentinian was during Barcelona's stunning Champions League comeback against PSG. 

The new coach's first starting lineup should be interesting and is difficult to call, although you can expect a high press from Argentina. Sampoli does not lack for attacking options with Higuain, Messi, Icardi, Di Maria and Dybala all available but needs to make them gel, something his predecessors have struggled to do.

     

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 06:  Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria of Argentin run with the ball during an Argentina Training Session at City Football Academy on June 6, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Gabriel Jesus vs. Nicolas Otamendi

Gabriel Jesus could come face-to-face with Manchester City team-mate Nicolas Otamendi in Melbourne, which promises to be a fascinating matchup. The 20-year-old striker has taken the Premier League by storm since making his debut in January and finished the season with seven goals in eight league starts for Pep Guardiola's side.

Otamendi, meanwhile, made 40 starts for City in all competitions last season, but his future at the club remains unclear, per Simon Bajkowski at the Manchester Evening News, and he could be in for a tough game against the young Brazilian.

Jesus has the pace and aggression to really trouble Otamendi, particularly when in possession, and force the centre-back into mistakes if he is not at the top of his game.

While it is just a friendly, the two teams go into the game with very contrasting fortunes. Brazil are flying high with nine wins in a row, while Argentina have lost three of their last five and are in need of inspiration.

The arrival of Sampaoli may help, but Tite's side, even without some of their star men, are in such good form they may well pour more misery on Argentina.

Prediction: A narrow 2-1 win for Brazil