Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain (right) celebrates with Angel di Maria after scoring a goal.
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain (right) celebrates with Angel di Maria after scoring a goal. Martin Meissner

'Brazil and Argentina is never a friendly'

ARGENTINA boss Jorge Sampaoli has implored his team to play without fear at a packed MCG on Friday night, while Brazil has declared it will not relent against its frail arch rival.

Brazil star Fernandinho declared there are no such thing as "friendlies" between the South American powerhouses.

And that can be seen in the line-up expected to be deployed by Argentina on Friday night, with Gonzalo Higuain expected to start in an attacking quartet with a collective transfer value of over $500 million - Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria being the others.

With Argentina's hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup hanging by a thread, Friday night is new coach Sampaoli's first chance to view his entire squad before their next qualifier away to Uruguay.

"We want to be able to play our style, without fear," Sampaoli said.

"Any situation that could create fear of thinking of a rival isn't good for us. We still need to be able to think about the game and not fear our rival.

"I believe that generational change has to be taken in stages. It's a slow, analytical process that we just don't have time to go through now because we're facing qualifiers.

"The goal is to qualify for the World Cup and the reality is that we haven't yet.

"We have to think about the present, and not only the future. Generational change is a future process, we have to think about the World Cup and what that entails."

 

Fernandinho (left) of Brazil gets past Juan Cuadrado of Colombia.
Fernandinho (left) of Brazil gets past Juan Cuadrado of Colombia. DIEGO AZUBEL

Manchester City star Fernandinho was part of the Brazil side that bombed out 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.

But three years on, and with qualification for Russia already assured, there is a swagger returning to the five-time world champion.

While Barcelona icon Neymar is among a few frontline players missing, there is still plenty of Selecao star power, with Chelsea duo David Luiz and Willian, Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich) and Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain) among the travellers..

"Brazil and Argentina is never a friendly, everybody wants to win and we know how important this is being a 'classic'," Fernandinho said.

"We need to continue in our rhythm, but Argentina has a new coach ... this is more motivation for them.

"To lose would be different for us because we haven't lost under (coach) Tite, but we are prepared if we do.

"Although losing will not be a problem for us in continuing our form, I expect we can win."

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