Brazil are without Manchester City’s Danilo, who will miss the rest of the tournament after injuring his ankle His absence means Fagner, who has started the last three games, will continue at right-back.
Midfielder Casemiro is suspended and will be replaced by Fernandinho, head coach Tite has confirmed. Left-back Marcelo, who was not fully fit for their last match, has recovered from a back problem and will reclaim a starting spot from Filipe Luis.
Winger Douglas Costa is also available, having overcome a muscle injury. Belgium are hopeful that winger Adnan Januzaj will be fit, having been unavailable for their last match because of an unspecified injury. Head coach Roberto Martinez has reported no other fitness concerns.
Belgium’s dramatic fightback against Japan saw them become the first side to win a World Cup game from 2-0 down for 48 years, but another slow start on Friday against Brazil is likely to prove fatal.
The Brazilians may be best known, historically, for their ‘jogo bonito’ (beautiful game), but the current side are miserly in defence. They have conceded just once so far in Russia and have kept clean sheets in 19 of their 25 matches under head coach Tite.
Belgium do, however, have the individual quality to give the five-time champions their biggest test yet. Both these sides had three players each on the 2017 Ballon d’Or shortlist; Neymar, Marcelo and Philippe Coutinho for Brazil, with Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens representing Belgium.
Similarly, The Guardian’s list of the world’s 100 best footballers, released in December, included 10 Brazilians and seven Belgians.
So while the South Americans will begin as favourites, there is no reason for the Red Devils to have an inferiority complex.
VIEW FROM BOTH CAMPS
Brazil head coach Tite: “It will be a great match. Both teams excel with a beautiful football. Belgium have great players and a great coach as well. I’ve always put them in the group of favourites (for the title).”
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez: “We will need power. We have to defend as well as we can and then cause them pain when we have the ball.”
Belgium have a similar attacking outlook, but have been a lot more open.
I don’t think that will be a good idea against Brazil, but I am not sure what else Belgium manager Roberto Martinez will do.
The way the Red Devils came from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in the last 16 was obviously a good thing, but I think the fact they went behind in the first place shows why they are not going to win the tournament.