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How will Argentina line up in Jorge Sampaoli's first match vs Brazil?

Goal.com logo Goal.com 08-06-2017
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On Friday a new era begins for the Argentina national team. Jorge Sampaoli takes the reins for his debut just a week after his appointment was finally made official, with a friendly against Brazil in Melbourne looming.

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With such a short time to work with his players, evolution rather than revolution will be the key for the Superclasico. Fans, nevertheless, can expect to see plenty of new faces making an appearance over the 90 minutes, even if the starting line-up takes on a rather familiar look.

Sampaoli and his troops have been training tirelessly ahead of the clash, and while nothing is set the coach has already dropped a few big hints over the 11 men to take on Tite's formidable Selecao.

It is clear that nobody wants to miss this inaugural chance to shine under the ex-Sevilla man. Argentina are near full strength, with just a few enforced absences - and a couple of bold choices.

Javier Mascherano had been included in the squad as a defender, a departure from his usual international role in the centre of midfield. The Barcelona man, however, sustained a knee injury against Alaves in the Copa del Rey final which ruled him out of the matches against Brazil and Singapore. Federico Fazio of Roma replaced the veteran in the list, although he is unlikely to feature from the start in Melbourne.

Marcos Rojo was also removed from contention due to his long-term injury, while Manchester City hitman Sergio Aguero was overlooked as Sampaoli preferred Inter captain Mauro Icardi for this first call-up.

Even without Neymar, given a deserved break by Tite, and their two Champions League full-backs, Brazil have more than enough in their team to make Argentina sweat on Friday.

The Barcelona star will be replaced by Chelsea's Willian for the clash in a typically attacking line-up, with Gabriel Jesus the focal point for the Selecao's offensive efforts. The City striker and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho are the dangermen, and must be stopped if the Albiceleste are to take a positive result.

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In a tactical dossier prepared ahead of his first training session Sampaoli laid out a few of his key concepts. The coach plans to defend high up the field, winning back possession as soon as possible and overloading on the flanks to create space.

It is a sound tactic, but Argentina will have to be at their best against a team that in eight World Cup qualifying games under Tite have smashed no less than 24 goals.

One of the areas Sampaoli has focused on in training has been Argentina's defence. The zone is notoriously a weak point for the side, making it a priority going into crucial World Cup qualifiers in August and September.

The coach ran drills using both a three-man and four-man backline, leaving some mystery over which system he will opt for on Friday. The former was made up of Nicolas Otamendi, Lyon youngster Emanuel Mammana and Sevilla's Gabriel Mercado, while later Lanus right-back Jose Luis Gomez entered on the flank, leaving Otamendi with River Plate's Jonathan Maidana in the middle and Mercado shifting to the left.

Between the posts, meanwhile, Sergio Romero looks set to continue over Nahuel Guzman and Geronimo Rulli after featuring behind both defences.

Further up the pitch, there are fewer surprises. Despite their exertions in the Champions League final, Juventus stars Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain were put through their paces with the starters and are likely to get the nod against Brazil.

With Higuain a fixture as the solitary centre-forward, Dybala will be expected to form a creative tandem with Lionel Messi a little further back. With three at the back, the pair lined up just behind Pipita, with Messi then shifting to the right in a 4-2-3-1 set-up, leaving the younger man to run the middle.

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After that punishing defeat in Cardiff, it is unlikely that either Juve man will be expected to complete the full 90 minutes in Melbourne. Icardi is the logical replacement for Higuain as he hopes for his first international appearance in almost four years, while Atalanta's Alejandro Gomez is an option for Dybala after a wonderful season in Serie A.

Angel Di Maria, meanwhile, continues on the left-hand side, while Ever Banega and Lucas Biglia look set to act as a double pivot anchoring the midfield. Eduardo Salvio entered the action on the right and could feature, while young Roma star Leandro Paredes should expect some time on the pitch.

Sampaoli will likely keep his cards close to his chest until the final moments. His first Argentina XI, however, is close to completion, and depending on whether he eventually plumps for a three or four-man defence the side should form up along the above lines.

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