Brazil vs Mexico

World Cup 2018: Brazil vs. Mexico odds, lines, expert picks, insider predictions

BRAZIL started to look like… well, like Brazil as they turned it on in the final 20 minutes against Serbia but Mexico’s sit and hit approach will make things potentially more tricky.

The departures of Messi and Ronaldo mean the door is open for Neymar to seize the crown but the PSG ace is still feeling his way back from that foot surgery.

Mexico provided the first shock of the tournament when they earned their first competitive win over Germany. But beating Brazil at the World Cup for the first time would arguably be even bigger.

The nation expects: In two words: The Sixth. World Cup wins, that is. And Brazil know they are even heavier favourites now than they were at the start of last month.

Mexico got severe stick for the manner of their defeat by Sweden as Korea’s injury-time heroics kept them in the tournament despite two wins. This is a chance for glory.

Key battles/Star men: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano has been Mexico’s stand-out performer and if he can get the battle of right-back Fagner then the Central Americans will begin to sniff an upset.

While Neymar has captured the headlines, it has been Philippe Coutinho who has caught the eye. His pass for Paulinho’s opener against Serbia was footballing perfection.

Weakest links: Brazil were rocking for 15 minutes or so against Serbia before Tite sent Fernandinho on for the distinctly ordinary Paulinho and locked things up. But the former Spurs flop will be back in harness and gives them a soft centre.

Mexico’s lack of a Plan B appeared a real problem once they went a goal down against Sweden. It will be the same tonight if Brazil get the opener.

Likely line-ups and Team Talk: Tite has Danilo available again after a hip problem but appears set to stick with Fagner. Former Chelsea left-back Felipe Luis will stand in for back spasm victim Marcelo.

Probable team: Allison; Fagner, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Felipe Luis; Casemiro, Paulinho; Willian, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is without defensive mainstay Hector Moreno after the centre-half picked up his second booking of the group stage against Sweden. Hugo Ayala is expected to come in rather than veteran Rafa Marquez

Probable team: Guillermo Ochoa; Edson Alvarez, Hugo Ayala, Carlos Salcedo, Jesus Gallardo; Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado; Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela, Hirving Lozano; Javier Hernandez

Best bet: Despite all their firepower, Brazil have not been scoring with ease. So a 1-0 win in Mexico’s favour could be worth a punt at 12/1 with Betway.

Prem Tsar in the making: With the exception of Chicarito, Mexican players have not made too many waves in the Premier League. PSV Eindhoven’s Lozano could prove the exception.

The stat that matters: Mexico have never scored a World Cup goal against Brazil in four previous meetings, although they did play out a group stage draw in 2014. The Centrral Americans have gone out at last 16 stage for the past six World Cups

Brazil will be strong favourites to progress at the Samara Arena – but Mexico have already proven they can spring a surprise.