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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Nothing friendly about Neymar-led Brazil's Riyadh game against Lionel Messi-less Argentina

Brazil 'know what this encounter against Argentina means', says Miranda ahead of Tuesday's game

Neymar, left, and Miranda, second from left, attend Brazil's training session in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. EPA
Neymar, left, and Miranda, second from left, attend Brazil's training session in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. EPA

Neither Brazil nor Argentina say they will settle for anything less than victory in Tuesday’s friendly clash in Saudi Arabia.

The South American heavyweights rekindle their rivalry is the slightly unfamiliar surroundings of Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City, a much-anticipated encounter that marks the conclusion of a four-team friendly tournament in the Kingdom involving also the hosts and Iraq.

Even with nothing but bragging rights on the line, both sides are determined not to give away anything to the other.

Argentina, who warmed up for the match on Thursday with a 4-0 win against Iraq in Riyadh, look to have the more difficult task, since they are without a host of star names, including captain Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria.

In contrast, Brazil have most of their main men to call upon, including Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino.

However, the five-time world champions were well short of their best in their friendly against Saudi Arabia on Friday, when an admittedly experimental side laboured to a 2-0 victory in Riyadh.

Brazil are expected to be much changed for Argentina, though, with Inter Milan defender Miranda confirming how his team view Tuesday's match in Jeddah.

"Any game against Argentina is different, it takes on a huge dimension and we all know what this encounter means," he said. "Our team has prepared well and we hope to play a great match and win."

Those sentiments are echoed by the opposition camp, despite the number of key absentees.

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Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, right, will likely be in action for Argentina against Brazil on Tuesday. AFP
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, right, will likely be in action for Argentina against Brazil on Tuesday. AFP

Two-time world champions Argentina are eager to move on from a poor World Cup in which they exited at the last-16 stage to eventual winners, France.

Manager Jorge Sampaoli has since made way for interim coach Lionel Scaloni, but even still, any unwelcome result against Brazil would only increase the pressure from back home on the national team.

"Every time Argentina play, we have to win,” goalkeeper Sergio Romero said. “And when playing against Brazil, even in a friendly, we still have to win and play our way, which is what the coach is asking of us.

"Here we have a new group of players and we'll try to do our best for the team."

According to Fifa, the two countries are playing each other for the 105th time, with Brazil winning 40 times to Argentina's 38.

The pair met most recently in June last year, when Argentina won 1-0 in a friendly in Australia. But Brazil romped to a 3-0 success in their last competitive fixture, a World Cup qualifier in November 2016.