Brazil v Belgium preview: Heavyweights collide in quarter-final
Last Updated: 06/07/18 7:25pm
Two of the pre-tournament favourites collide in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday evening at 7pm, as Brazil and Belgium clash in their World Cup quarter-final.
Brazil coach Tite has confirmed that Real Madrid full-back Marcelo will return to the side to face the Belgians.
Marcelo was forced off early on in Brazil's final group game as they beat Serbia to assure themselves of top spot in Group E, before the same back problem cost him a place in the team that beat Mexico 2-0.
"I talked to Marcelo and Filipe Luis," said Tite.
"Marcelo left (against Serbia) because of a clinical problem and he has not been back because of a physical problem, he only had 45 to 60 minutes. Filipe Luis played very well in those matches but Marcelo is coming back."
Roberto Martinez believes his Belgium team are ready for the challenge of Brazil and says there is "something special" about his squad.
Martinez feels his side, despite being stacked with individual talent, cannot be regarded as favourites because of their inexperience but he is convinced they can flourish.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the former Everton manager said: "The two sides are very similar in terms of qualities. The difference is we haven't won a World Cup - simple as that.
"When you go into a tournament if you don't have that know-how of winning one you can't have an advantage on the opponent.
"We shouldn't play Brazil, we shouldn't be in awe of the opportunity we have. We need to enjoy our game, be ourselves. When we do that our talent shows.
"There is something special in this squad, no doubt about it. The signs are positive and of a real desire to be on the football pitch.
"We can't wait. I feel we are as ready as we can be. Over the last two years we have been working towards this moment."
Along with the return of Marcelo, Fernandinho will also come into the Brazil side.
The Manchester City midfielder has yet to start a game in Russia but will replace Casemiro - who misses out through suspension - and is likely to be joined in the starting XI by club-mate Gabriel Jesus, despite the fact the forward has yet to score in the finals.
Defender Miranda joined Tite at the press conference at the Kazan Arena and the Inter Milan man will captain the side.
Belgium were thankful to goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in their comeback win over Japan but Martinez is likely to keep the same team that started the game.
- This will be the fifth meeting between these sides. Belgium won the first back in a 1963 friendly, while Brazil have won the following three meetings.
- The only previous occasion these sides met in a World Cup was in the round of 16 in 2002, with Brazil winning 2-0 en route to winning the entire competition.
- Belgium have lost three of their last four World Cup meetings against South American opposition.
- Brazil are playing the quarter-final for the seventh successive World Cup tournament. They've only gone out twice at this stage in that run (vs France in 2006 and vs the Netherlands in 2010).
- Brazil have been knocked out of the World Cup by a European side in each of the last three tournaments (vs France in 2006, Netherlands in 2010 and Germany in 2014).
- Belgium have reached consecutive World Cup quarter-finals for the first time - they lost at this stage to Argentina in 2014.
- Belgium have scored 12 goals so far in the 2018 World Cup - at no single tournament in the competition have they scored more (also 12 in 1986).
- Brazil are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions (W11 D4), conceding just three goals in that run.
- Belgium are unbeaten in their last 23 matches (W18 D5), the longest current run of any team left in the 2018 World Cup.
- Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 19 goals in his 18 games for Belgium under Roberto Martinez, scoring 10 and assisting nine.
- Belgium's Romelu Lukaku has scored with four of his five shots on target so far at the 2018 World Cup.
- Brazil forward Neymar has been involved in 20 goals in his last 19 matches for Brazil, scoring 11 and assisting nine.
Which nation actually has the better players? That's a tough one to answer, but Brazil are certainly the better collective.
I think Roberto Firmino has to start and Gabriel Jesus has to be rested as he's struggling in the shadow of Neymar, while Firmino brings more link-up play.
Kevin De Bruyne hasn't really threatened on the ball as he's playing the Manchester City role without the same possession dominance. Roberto Martinez will know they have to have a go at Brazil so I can see a high-scoring affair.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-2 (28/1 with Sky Bet)