Brazil captain Dani Alves and centre-back Marquinhos have insisted their national team isn't afraid of Argentina's Lionel Messi ahead of their Superclasico clash in 2018 World Cup qualifying this Thursday.
The two rivals will collide at the Estadio Governador Magalhaes Pinto in Belo Horizonte, and with Brazil currently leading CONMEBOL qualification, Alves told the media on Tuesday: "There is no such thing as being scared in football. There is respect for Messi and for Argentina. And they feel the same about our players, our team."
Few among the Selecao's ranks will have quite as much knowledge of Argentina's captain as Alves, who played alongside the attacker at Barcelona for eight years before joining Juventus this past summer.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos admitted an error-free performance will be required if La Albiceleste are to stop Messi: "We have to be perfect. With the tiniest mistake, he can dribble, he can score."
The comments came after Argentina striker Lucas Pratto told Argentinian newspaper Ole (h/t Associated Press, via ESPN FC) Brazil were "scared" of his team-mate: "They know that Leo is very tough. They are a little scared. Or maybe more than a little."
Football Manager's Brazil researcher Paulo Freitas has suggested there's good reason to feel as much, though, and said even Selecao superstar Neymar can't step out of his fellow 2016 Ballon d'Or contender's shadow:
Argentina are currently sixth in CONMEBOL qualification, five points and five places below leaders Brazil, who look almost certain to feature at the 2018 World Cup with eight qualifiers remaining.
The rivalry between the two sides is fierce, but not so fierce that Messi and Argentina team-mate Javier Mascherano couldn't set differences aside for their journey to Belo Horizonte this week:
Messi's return to fitness is a daunting prospect for Brazil, and if there's one player among Argentina's ranks who can bring about a Selecao slump, one would think the five-time Ballon d'Or-winner is it.
That being said, La Albiceleste have infamously failed to bring about any notable trophy success even with the Barcelona dynamo among their ranks, finishing runners-up in three major finals in the last three years.
Even with Messi on hand, Argentina couldn't help but finish second to Germany at the 2014 World Cup before then claiming back-to-back runner-up placements at the 2015 and 2016 Copa America tournaments.
A Messi strike gave Argentina a 1-0 win over Uruguay in September, his only match under manager Edgardo Bauza, who will be hoping his fit-again forward will have the tools to repeat the feat in Thursday's Superclasico.