World Cup hosts Russia welcome Brazil to the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow in what could be a stern test for both nations before the actual competition in June.

Russia might not have had a lot of competitive action due to the lack of qualifying fixtures in the road to the summer world cup, but in Brazil, they face one of the tournament’s favourites on Friday. Brazil, on the other hand, will test their resolve in the testing conditions the Russian capital currently offers as well as against the host nation.

Brazil were the first nation to qualify for the summer tournament, behind hosts Russia, who did not have any competitive qualifying action. Tite’s men will have to prove to their fans that their team is more than one player – Neymar, who will be absent through injury for this friendly encounter.

Neymar’s severe injury has put the superstar’s participation in doubt for the tournament, but recently PSG revealed he would be fit to play in it. Despite that, Brazil will be looking for a resolution without their talisman and hope for a positive result over an in-form Russian side.

Russia’s last two games against stern international opposition came against Argentina, which they narrowly lost 1-0 and against Spain, which ended 3-3 after the Russians went 2-0 down in the first half. Russia will be eager to play in a game, albeit a friendly against an opposition of the quality of Brazil.

Team News & Tactics

Russia

Stanislav Cherchesov has over time, experimented with many different formations and had seemingly struck a chord with the 5-3-2 style of play which he deployed against Spain. The performance against the Spaniards will prompt the manager to stick with the same formation against Brazil too.

The Russians, however, will be without two of their formidable goal threats in Aleksandr Kokorin and Artem Dzyuba for this game. Kokorin, who Zenit confirmed has ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments, could be a significant doubt for the Summers’ tournament.

In their place, Miranchuk and Smolov could get the chance to impress and stake a claim to starting spots before the final squad is announced before the tournament.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Akinfeev; Kutepov, Neustadter, Kudryashov; Smolnikov, Zhirkov; Glusakov, Kuzyayev, Dzagoev; Smolov, Miranchuk

Brazil

Neymar’s injury dominates the focus around the Brazilian team and some quarters believe the Selecao superstar could eventually miss the World Cup, although PSG says otherwise. On to the match against hosts Russia, Tite will be eager to change things around and also give opportunities to some new, untested members in the squad.

The significant experimentation would be around Philippe Coutinho and his ability to play in different midfield positions. Tite is expected to play Coutinho as part of a central midfield trio with Fernandinho as the anchorman and Renato Augusto in a box-to-box role. Tite has been reliant on Augusto for sometime now and would want to continue with him.

Tite could also give an opportunity to Real Sociedad’s Willian Jose as the forward’s 13-goals in La Liga this season has earned him a first call to the Selecao side. Firmino is expected to start as Brazil’s lone striker flanked by Willian and Taison.

Tite has a left-back problem with both Filipe Luis and Alex Sandro out injured, although they have their first choice, Marcelo available. Tite will also relish the chance to give both his in-form goalkeepers Ederson and Alisson a chance in the friendlies before he decides on a No.1 keeper.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; D.Alves, Marquinhos, T.Silva, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Augusto, Coutinho; Willian, Taison, Firmino

Key Stats

  • Russia have only two wins from their last five international matches.
  • Russia, however, instead interestingly haven’t won against an opposition from the western hemisphere in their last six games.
  • Brazil are unbeaten in their last five games, although they have only two wins from those games
  • Russia are yet to beat Brazil in the fice times they have played the South Americans, although they did record a draw in their last encounter back in 2013.

Player To Watch

Philippe Coutinho

Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho controls the ball during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Pau Barrena (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s Philippe Coutinho’s time to shine for Brazil in the absence of Neymar. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

Although a remarkable player, Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho has a great chance to showcase why he could also be Brazil’s leading man against Russia as he takes the spotlight in Neymar’s absence. A brilliant performance against the hosts will calm the nerves of the many fans who might feel Brazil as a weakened side in Neymar’s absence.

Coutinho’s performances haven’t seen any dip in the last few years. While Tite could experiment with his positioning on the field, its all up to Coutinho to show he can perform anywhere irrespective of where he plays. With a win against Russia, the Selecao could also look to build the team around Coutinho in addition to Neymar.

Prediction

Russia 1-2 Brazil

The Russians would be pumped up at home, especially in front of a sell-out crowd at the Lunzhini Stadium when they take on Brazil. There are, however, some concerns about this Russian team going into the World Cup and questions remain on their progression.

Brazil, on the other hand, are one of the favourites and could be second only to Germany to win the World Cup. The Brazilians are without their talisman Neymar, but even without him, they have a quality side, especially in attack to beat the Russians. Expect both teams to score, but in the end, Brazil with the quality on board to edge the result in their favour.

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