As the two giants of South American football go up in arms against each other in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, Argentina would be wary of the fact that without a set of key players, they are likely to be quite vulnerable against Brazil.

La Albiceleste have been performing well in recent tournaments, reaching the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America, but coach Gerardo Martino will be forced to make do with a rather depleted squad as he prepares his side for the battle against their arch rivals.

The biggest blow to his squad is the absence of captain and star player Lionel Messi, who is out due to injury. However, Messi is not the only absence that Martino would rue this time. Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, and Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tevez are also injured, which completely depletes Martinoa s first-choice front three.

However, the 52-year-old does have the in-form Gonzalo Higuain at his disposal, and the Serie A top scorer could make quite an impact on the Brazil defence. Martino also has the likes of Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi to support Higuain from the wings, making even Argentina’s second string front three quite a formidable one. .

Brazil to pin hopes on Neymar

Carlos Dunga, the Brazil coach has been all praises for star forward Neymar, ahead of his sidea s crucial game against Argentina, even comparing the FC Barcelona player to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

While this might seem a bit odd to some, Neymar has in fact done a statisticallya better, as Dunga put it, netting 11 times in 10 La Liga appearances, while Ronaldo has managed eight goals from 11 matches. Messi meanwhile, has been injured, and has managed only three goals from five matches.

However, one thing that seems to be bothering the Selecao fans is the exclusion of in-form Liverpool FC midfielder Philippe Coutinho. Instead, Dunga has gone for the on-loan Orlando City playmaker Kaka. While the former AC Milan star was instrumental the last time Brazil defeated Argentina in an away match at the World Cup Qualifiers six years ago, it is doubtful how much the 33-year-old will contribute tactically. However, he can bring in his vast experience and help the side.

La Gazzetta Dello Sport has billed this encounter as a clash between Higuain and Neymar, as the top performers of Spain and Italy go head-to-head. It would be interesting to see how Argentina prepare, especially as they are without Messi.