Unbeaten in their last 14 competitive matches, Brazil will take to the field at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow knowing that a draw is enough to secure a berth in the last 16 while victory over Serbia would secure top spot in Group E for the Selecao. The situation is much more difficult for their opponents Serbia who – after taking the lead against Switzerland had a foot in the next round – now find the odds firmly stacked against them.
Indeed, Mladen Krstajić’s men find themselves in real trouble after a stunning 2-1 loss in that previous encounter, a huge surprise considering their excellent performance against Costa Rica. The Coach is expected to continue with the same 4-2-3-1 formation he has used for some time, with his impressive backline of Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Dusko Tosic and Aleksandar Kolarov protected by Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.
Ahead of them, Serbia need a much-improved performance from the in-demand Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in his attacking role behind Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Lazio midfield star was superb against Costa Rica but looked slow and sluggish against the Swiss, a far cry from the form that has seen him discussed as a €100 million transfer target for Europe’s biggest clubs.
Their opponents need little introduction, although Coach Tite has been forced to backtrack from his claim Brazil would be unchanged here. One alteration to his starting XI will come at right back where Danilo has suffered a hip injury and the Manchester City man will almost miss out, as will Douglas Costa. The Juve winger has unfortunately got a hamstring issue that has perhaps cost him a rare start here following his impact from the bench in the previous outing, which will likely lead to Willian retaining his place.
Fagner is expected to come into the back four of Tite’s 4-3-3 system, one which thrives on the form of Neymar. The PSG forward’s goal was his 56th in 87 appearances for his national team, while Roberto Firmino may join him up front after impressing alongside Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus in what will be only the second time Brazil have faced Serbia since the break-up of Yugoslavia.
That previous encounter saw the Selecao win 1-0 in a friendly back in 2014 where Fred – the striker, not the midfielder in the current squad – scored the only goal of the game. They will have to be wary of Mitrovic, who has scored six goals in his last five games for Serbia after netting against Switzerland and will certainly be looking to add to that tally here while Kolarov is always dangerous from set pieces.
Brazil (4-3-3): Alisson; Fagner, Thiago Silva, Joao Miranda, Marcelo; Philippe Coutinho, Casemiro, Willian; Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
Serbia (4-2-3-1): Vladimir Stojkovic; Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Dusko Tosic, Aleksandar Kolarov; Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic; Dusan Tadic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Adem Ljajic; Aleksandar Mitrovic
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