Victories for Brazil and Argentina set up the two sides for an enticing World Cup qualifying clash in São Paulo on Sunday.
Argentina beat Venezuela 3-1 in Caracas to extend their unbeaten run to 21 games and know they can overcome Brazil on their home turf, having defeated them 1-0 in the Copa América final at the Maracanã in July.
“It’s special for the players to have the patch of champions on their chest; they fought so hard to win the Copa América,” Argentina’s coach, Lionel Scaloni, said. “The important thing is to not rest on our laurels.”
Lautaro Martínez, Joaquin Correa and Ángel Correa got the goals for Argentina in Venezuela, with Jeferson Soteldo scoring a penalty for the hosts seconds before the final whistle. Argentina played with a man advantage from the 32nd minute after Adrián Martínez was sent off after a harsh tackle on Lionel Messi.
Brazil, too, will be confident after winning their first seven games in World Cup qualifying for the first time. The five-times world champions are six points ahead of second-placed Argentina.
“Seven wins in a row is historic, we’ll now hope to make it eight,” said Everton Ribeiro, who scored Brazil’s winner in their 1-0 victory over Chile in Santiago.
The goalkeeper Weverton said they were well aware of Argentina’s quality. “It will be hard-fought game and so now we are going to rest to recuperate and get ready,” he added. “[Coach] Tite is going to prepare us well, it is a derby and a really difficult game and we hope to win one more.”
Brazil will be without nine England-based players, who were prevented from travelling by their clubs, including five frequent starters in Ederson, Thiago Silva, Fred, Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus. Argentina players have travelled in defiance of a ban.
The Brazil defender Marquinhos was booked and is suspended for the match against Argentina, with the veteran Miranda or newcomer Lucas Verissimo set to replace him.
Elsewhere in qualifying, Ecuador beat Paraguay 2-0 to sit third, three points behind Argentina. Colombia secured a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in the altitude of La Paz, and Peru and Uruguay drew 1-1 in Lima. Uruguay were without the injured Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, who was not released by Manchester United.