BUENOS AIRES • Brazil superstar Neymar returns from suspension to face an injury-hit Argentina today as South America's qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup resumes with a showdown between the bitter continental rivals.
He was forced to sit out Brazil's opening two qualifiers last month - a 2-0 defeat by Chile followed by a 3-1 victory over Venezuela - after his four-match suspension at the Copa America in June.
But the talismanic striker and captain is now back for Brazil, as the five-time world champions head to Buenos Aires to face an Argentina side who took only one point from their first two games.
THE KEY MAN
It is always very important to have Neymar.
DAVID LUIZ, Brazil defender
Aguero: I'll return for Liverpool game
LONDON • Manchester City and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero believes he will be fit to return after the international break, targeting Liverpool as his comeback game from injury on Nov 21.
He has been out since early October with a hamstring injury sustained while playing for La Albiceleste.
"I don't think I'm too far away now," the 27-year-old told City's website. "Physically, I feel good and I've kept as fit as I can during my lay-off.
"I still need to work hard for another week and if not this week, then maybe next, I hope to start training with the rest of the lads and so my target is Liverpool."
Premier League leaders City take on Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium and are away to Juventus in the Champions League the week after.
The impending return of the Premier League's Golden Boot winner last season will be a relief to City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
The Chilean currently has one fit striker - the Nigerian teenager Kelechi Iheanacho - after Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Bony limped out of Sunday's 0-0 draw at Aston Villa with a hamstring injury.
Aguero has missed City's last seven games in all competitions. He scored a club record five goals in a 6-1 win over Newcastle United in his last City appearance and has six league goals this term.
"I'll take things slowly and not rush into anything but I'm not far away," he said.
All that is left for Neymar to do is to take his club form to the international stage. He netted a brace for Barcelona against Villarreal on Sunday to take his tally to 11 goals in 10 La Liga matches this season.
"It is always very important to have Neymar," Brazil defender David Luiz told Globo. "In addition to being decisive, being able to count on his presence in the group is crucial. He is a person who brings positivity in every way and his return gives us even more confidence, both on and off the field."
The same could be said about Neymar's club-mate Lionel Messi. But the Argentina captain is ruled out after suffering a long-term knee injury in September.
The four-time Ballon D'Or winner rejoined Barcelona training on Monday but is far from match-fit.
Argentina national team doctor Homero de Agostino has already warned the Catalan giants against fielding the forward in the Clasico against Real Madrid on Nov 21.
Without Messi, Argentina suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at home by Ecuador in their opening game and then laboured to a goal-less stalemate against Paraguay in Asuncion.
Those results have piled the pressure on beleaguered manager Gerardo Martino. His position had already come under scrutiny after his side's failure to win the Copa America, losing to hosts Chile in a penalty shoot-out in the final.
His preparations for tonight's showdown at the Estadio Monumental have been further complicated by the absence of even more attacking talent. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is also unavailable while Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tevez is rated as doubtful after suffering a knee problem.
"Every absence is important," Martino said, while conceding that absentees like Messi and Aguero are more critical than others.
"We'll have to change our mindset to beat Brazil."
That Messi, Aguero and Tevez have never scored against a Brazil team managed by Dunga will hardly be of any consolation to Martino, who is set to look to Gonzalo Higuain for goals. The Napoli striker was left out of the squad for the first two qualifiers but has caught attention with his club form in Italy.
ARGENTINA v BRAZIL
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