Brazil v Paraguay preview
Brazil welcome Paraguay to São Paulo on Tuesday night in scintillating form. They have won their last 7 CONMEBOL qualifiers and demolished a formidable Uruguay side 4-1 on Thursday evening- Albiceleste’s first defeat on home soil in seven years. Brazil are almost assured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, an expected home victory against Paraguay will put them on the brink of Russia 2018.
Brazil’s biggest enemy would be complacency at this stage. They have only conceded twice under Tite- an own goal against Colombia and a penalty against Uruguay. The Seleção, with Neymar in sparkling form, will be fully expected to despatch Paraguay. Tite will have to ensure that his players remain focused on the job at hand.
Confidence quickly morphs into overconfidence and there is a potential added distraction with the game being played at Arena Corinthians. It is something of a homecoming for Tite, who won two league titles, a Copa Libertadores and a Club World Cup with Timão. He will receive quite a welcome from the home support, as will a few of the players that formed the fulcrum of Tite’s Corinthians team.
Renato Augusto left for China last year, Paulinho moved to the Premier League shortly after Timão’s World Club Cup win in 2013 and now plies his trade in China. Centre half Marquinhos was a product of the Corinthians academy and with Dani Alves suspended, current Timão right-back Fágner is set to start. The game will certainly have a very Corinthians backdrop, with the supporters greeting players and a coach they have much affection for.
But Tite must ensure his players avoid the sideshow and concentrate on the task at hand. Brazil will be favourites to beat Paraguay, but their 2-1 win over Ecuador on Thursday night just about keeps their qualification hopes alive. A victory for the Paraguayans in São Paulo puts them squarely in the qualification equation. Especially as closest competitors for the 4th and 5th spots- Colombia and Ecuador- play one another earlier in the evening.
Paraguay really ought to have taken the three points in the reverse fixture, as a more muddled incarnation of this Seleção side toiled under Dunga. Paraguay led Brazil 2-0 with eight minutes left in Asuncion but buckled and conceded two late goals- including a stoppage time equaliser from Dani Alves. Brazil are a finely oiled machine under Tite, but the visitors will not roll over easily.
With Dani Alves suspended, Fágner will come in at right-back. Marcelo had a difficult night against Uruguay, but his greater attacking thrust will probably see him keep his place ahead of Filipe Luis. Otherwise, Roberto Firmino will continue in the false 9 position with Gabriel Jesus injured. Coutinho and Neymar will complete the attacking unit.
Paraguay will probably play a compact 4-5-1 unit, with Iturbe and Dominguez charged with leading the counter attack from the flanks. Brazil will push Fágner and Marcelo up quite high, so exploiting any space they leave will figure prominently in coach Chiqui Arce’s gameplan. The Parguayans will try to frustrate Brazil with a deep block and herd the front three into crowded central areas.
For Brazil it will be very much a case of “as you were”, with Renato Augusto proving to be the link man, allowing Paulinho to ghost forward into space and plugging any gaps Coutinho and Neymar might vacate as they look to become involved in play. Paulinho stole the headlines with a hat trick in Montevideo but the performance of Neymar illuminated the match. If he provides something similar on Tuesday, Paraguay will have a difficult job stopping Tite’s men.
Predicted line-up; 1.ALISSON, 22.FAGNER, 3.MIRANDA, 13.MARQUINHOS, 16.MARCELO; 5.CASEMIRO, 8.RENATO AUGUSTO, 15.PAULINHO, 11.P.COUTINHO, 10.NEYMAR, 21.FIRMINO.
Predicted score; Brazil 2 Paraguay 1.