Brazil will be looking to avoid an early exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup as they face Mexico in the Round of 16 match on Monday.

Brazil navigated a tough Group E to not only qualify but top the group as well, despite not looking their best. The South American side will be wary of the threat being posed by the lower ranked teams in the knockout stage. Spain have already succumbed to hosts Russia and Brazil will hope to avoid a similar fate against Mexico.

Mexico stunned the world in their first group match itself, earning a 1-0 win over defending champions Germany. After a harrowing 3-0 loss to Sweden in the last group stage match, South Korea’s shock 2-0 win over Germany saw them retain their second place and qualify for the Round of 16 at the holders’ expense.

The two teams will be looking to hit top form, with the World Cup entering the decisive phase. With Brazil and Mexico familiar foes, expect an intriguing tie. We run the rule over the two squads.

Team News & Tactics

Brazil

Tite has to deal with a few injury issues. While the manager would like to keep the lineup more or less the one he has preferred for over a year now, there might be a few changes. Fagner did brilliantly on the right side of the defence against Serbia and should be the one to start, even if Danilo manages to recover from his knock in time.

Marcelo is a doubt and Tite would hope he is back in time to start. But, in case he is unfit, Filipe Luis will be deputised on the left. Fred has recovered and will be an option from the bench for Tite, with the manager likely to keep the same midfield three.

Douglas Costa is set to miss the Round of 16 tie for Brazil and perhaps, more, if the nation comes out of the match as the winner. This means Willian and Neymar are sure to start. Gabriel Jesus was lacklustre in the Group Stage and could see himself being replaced by Roberto Firmino.

Casemiro, Neymar and Philippe Coutinho will have to be wary of their behaviour and aggression on the pitch, with the trio one booking away from a one-match suspension.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Fagner, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho; Willian, Firmino, Neymar

Mexico

Mexico already have a suspended player in Hector Moreno. The defender will be a huge loss at the back, especially in such a crunch tie. Juan Carlos Osorio will likely instruct the likes of Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun and Jesus Gallardo to be attentive about their endeavours on the field. The three players are one booking away from being suspended for the quarter-finals, should Mexico advance.

Hector Moreno should be replaced within the starting lineup by Hugo Ayala. The 31-year-old will partner Carlos Salcedo at the back, with Edison Alvarez and Jesus Gallardo on either side of the pair.

Hector Herrera has been impressive alongside captain Andres Guardado in the midfield pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Osorio will be hoping for more of the same from the player who has been attracting interest from Arsenal among many European clubs.

Hirving Lozano has been a revelation in attack with his speed and dribbling ability. The player will be looking to take some pressure off Chicharito’s shoulders, who is likely to lead the frontline.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Alvarez, Salcedo, Ayala, Gallardo; Herrera, Guardado; Layun, Vela, Lozano; Chicharito

Key Stats

1. Brazil have never conceded a goal against Mexico at the World Cup, with an aggregate score of 11-0 in four meetings at the Grand event.

2. Brazil have not failed to reach the quarter-finals at the World Cup since their failure in the 1990 edition.

3. Mexico have been knocked out at the Round of 16 stage in each of their last six World Cup appearances.

4. Mexico have played the most amount of matches at the World Cup without securing the title of the World Champions. (56 matches)

5. Brazil are unbeaten in their last 14 internationals, with their last loss coming in a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in June, 2017.

Player to Watch

Neymar

Will the real Neymar finally stand up and stand out in Russia? (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Will the real Neymar finally stand up and stand out in Russia? (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Philippe Coutinho has been the saviour for Brazil up until now. But, with the knockout phase upon us, expect Neymar to rise to the occasion. The player will want to lead the Brazilian attack to the World Cup win in Russia after succumbing to injury in the quarter-final on home soil in 2014.

Neymar has often snatched at straws in Russia so far. But, there have been glimpses of his ability to make an impact. Should the real Neymar take the pitch, with less antics and more footballing nous, we might just see what Brazil is really capable of, with Neymar firing on full cylinders.

Prediction

Brazil 4-1 Mexico

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Mexico have done oh so well to reach the Round of 16. But, their 3-0 defeat to Sweden did bring forth some loopholes and problems within the unit. Be that as it may, if Sweden was capable of putting three past Guillermo Ochoa, expect Brazil to go one better than the Nordic country.

The tie has been skewed more in favour of Brazil due to the unavailability of Hector Moreno, whose loss might just throw a wrench in Mexicos and their plans to advance to the quarter-finals.

Mexico will set up to counter Brazil’s dominance and hit them with the pace of Hirving Lozano. But, this Brazil team looks like it’s not even in their second gear and it seems to have several more levels remaining to tap into. Expect those levels to be reached to some degree, with Neymar & co. delivering a thrashing to the Mexicans.