The first fixture of the Group C of the 2019 Copa America will see Uruguay take on Ecuador at the Estadio Governador Magalhães Pinto on Sunday night.

The 46th edition of the Copa America is underway in Brazil, with the hosts kicking off the tournament with a comfortable 3-0 win over Bolivia on Friday. The focus will shift to Belo Horizonte on Sunday as Uruguay will lock horns against Ecuador in the Group C opener.

Following their quarter-final exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup against France, Uruguay have had somewhat mixed fortunes, having lost four of their five post-World Cup fixtures in 2018. However, Oscar Tabarez’s men have turned things around and are in red-hot form heading into the Copa America, registering three consecutive wins in 2019.

La Celeste’s latest match ended in a 3-0 triumph over Panama in a friendly last weekend. Having failed to get out of the group stages in the last edition of the Copa America, Uruguay, managed by Oscar Tabarez, will be aiming to kickstart the competition with a win on Sunday night.

Ecuador, on the other hand, come into the game having not won in four matches in a row (D2 L2), with their last victory coming against Panama in November last year. Prior to their Copa America opener against Uruguay this weekend, La Tricolor were handed a 3-2 defeat by Mexico.

Ecuador will be going into the Group C opener on Sunday with very less expectations and manager Hernan Dario Gomez will have his task cut out as he looks to set his team up to challenge one of the strongest teams in the competition.

Team News & Tactics

Uruguay

Uruguay have named star striker Luis Suarez in the squad despite the 32-year-old undergoing a knee surgery towards the end of the 2018-19 campaign. The fact that he came off the bench to score against Panama last week bodes well for Oscar Tabarez’s side. With Edinson Cavani, Cristhian Stuani and Maxi Gomez also in the roster, La Celeste have plenty of quality in attack.

Seasoned campaigner Fernando Muslera ought to be the obvious pick in goal for Uruguay, ahead of Martin Campana and Martin Silva. In Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, they have one of the strongest centre-back partnership in the competition, while the full-back slots are likely to be occupied by Martin Caceres and Diego Laxalt.

Juventus star Rodrigo Bentancur and Inter Milan’s Matias Vecino are likely to start in the centre of the park, with Real Madrid youngster Federico Valverde unlikely to feature despite scoring against Panama, while Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira is also likely to sit this one out.

Threat from the wide areas will come from Nahitan Nandez and Nicolas Lodeiro, who will be key in supplying the strikers with chances, given that the Uruguayan central midfield department lacks a creative presence. Both Cavani and Suarez haven’t started a single game in 2019, but that is likely to change on Sunday with Tabarez likely to go ahead with his senior strikers.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Muslera; Caceres, Gimenez, Godin, Laxalt; Nandez, Bentancur, Vecino, Lodeiro; Suarez, Cavani

Ecuador

Former Manchester United captain Antonio Valencia has been included in the 23-man squad despite him not featuring much over the course of the 2018-19 season. The 33-year-old will be slotted into an advanced role on the right flank by manager Gomez unlike United where has spent the past few years playing at right-back.

Maximo Banguera is likely to man the goal for La Tricolor ahead of Alexander Dominguez. With veteran defender Juan Carlos Paredes not in the squad, Jose Quintero should take up the right-back slot, while Beder Caicedo should feature on the opposite flank. 34-year-old Gabriel Achilier will pair up with Robert Arboleda at the heart of the defence.

FC Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo will be tasked with screening the Ecuador backline and will seek the support of Jefferson Orejuela, while Jefferson Intriago will take up the third midfield slot and look to provide with the forward thrust and support his team in attack.

Valencia will take up the right flank, while Renato Ibarra is likely to edge out his brother Romario Ibarra and Ayrton Preciado to the starting berth on the left wing. Former West Ham United striker Enner Valencia hasn’t been the regular choice in recent matches, but is likely to get the nod owing to his experience on Sunday night.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Banguera; Quintero, Arboleda, Achilier, Caicedo; Orejuela, Gruezo, Intriago; Antonio Valencia, Enner Valencia, Renato Ibarra

Key Stats

  • Uruguay and Ecuador have clashed previously on 47 occasions till date. La Celeste have the clear upper hand in the head-to-head results, having notched up 30 victories, while Ecuador have come out on top on just six occasions.
  • The last time these two sides clashed was in November 2016, with Uruguay emerging victorious 2-1 on that occasion.
  • Uruguay have won all their three fixtures in 2019 – notching up wins against Uzbekistan, Thailand and Panama, netting 10 goals in the process, while conceding none.
  • Ecuador on the other hand are winless in their previous four matches, during which they have managed to keep just one clean sheet, while scoring only four times.
  • However, La Tricolor can take confidence from the fact that they have won two of their last three meetings against Uruguay.

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

Uruguay's main man (Photo by MIGUEL ROJO/AFP/Getty Images)

Uruguay’s main man (Photo by MIGUEL ROJO/AFP/Getty Images)

With 56 goals from 107 matches, Luis Suarez is the highest goalscorer for Uruguay. The Barcelona star had a slightly sub-par 2018-19 season compared to his usual standards, with injuries hampering him to some extent. The 32-year-old missed some games towards the end of the season owing to a knee injury, for which he had to undergo a surgery.

However, Suarez has managed to recover in time for Uruguay’s Copa America campaign and proved his fitness when he came on to score against Panama in the friendly last weekend. He was La Celeste’s star man when they last lifted the Copa America in 2011 and he will once again have a huge role to play if Tabarez’s side are to go deep into this year’s competition.

Prediction

Uruguay 2-0 Ecuador

Uruguay had been inconsistent following their World Cup exit, but seem to have found their rhythm back just in time for the Copa America. Three convincing wins in three matches, albeit against opposition of a lower level, should hold them in good stead heading into their opening game.

In contrast, Ecuador have struggled to pick up victories recently and in their last game against Mexico it was quite evident that their defence has some issues. Given the quality that Uruguay possess in their forward line, coupled with a rock solid defence led by Diego Godin, they should kickstart their campaign with a straightforward victory.

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