Brazil coach Tite says his side is ready to “suffer” when they meet Uruguay in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier.
The Selecao have cruised to six consecutive victories in qualifying since Tite’s June 2016 appointment, and could secure their place at Russia 2018 with a favourable result in Montevideo.
The five-time world champions top Conmebol’s 10-team qualification group with six matches remaining, four points clear of second-placed Uruguay.
They face perhaps the stiffest test of Tite’s tenure so far in the form of a Uruguay side that have enjoyed six consecutive home wins in qualifiers – their best streak since winning 7 between 1957 and 1969.
"We will have moments where we will have to defend and will have to suffer,” Tite told a press conference.
“Being so close to qualification does make us anxious… This team is under construction. I am under construction. But on Thursday the two best teams in the campaign will face one another.”
Much of the discussion in the local media this week has been focused around how Tite’s side will react if they are to go behind for the first time in his Brazil career.
"Uruguay have won all six of their home games, five of which they have won in the first half. They set a strong tempo, with a very vertical style," Tite said. "They are players of high quality with great intelligence, real game intelligence. We will have to match them."
Uruguay will be without star striker Luis Suarez, who is out for the clash after the Barcelona man picked up another yellow card in the last round.
But Tite believes Uruguay’s great strength lies in the collective Oscar Tabarez has built, reminding reporters la Celeste won three of their first four qualifiers without Suarez following his lengthy suspension from World Cup 2014.
“I am aware of the ability and quality of Suarez, but this team is very strong. The absence of Suarez is going to be important, but Uruguay have players to cover for that. They have built their campaign around a strong sense of [teamwork].”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, 11 years into his second stint as national team boss, will also be without Atletico Madrid defender Jose Maria Gimenez and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera through suspension.
Brazil are the only Conmebol team that Tabarez has not defeated as manager of Uruguay.
Tite also confirmed that Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino will start in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus, leaving Sport striker Diego Souza – the first player from a club in the North Eastern region of the country to be called up for a qualifier since 2001 – on the bench.
“Firmino's in great form at Liverpool, so is Diego Souza, especially over the last year at Sport, where he has become a [one of the best] in the Brazilian league,” Tite said. “Firmino has come in well, and is scoring goals, so he has justified his selection.”
Brazil have worked intensively on attacking movement their two proper training sessions this week, with Firmino set to operate in a false no.9 position that will require a slight variation to Tite’s tried and tested 4-1-4-1 setup.
Gabriel Jesus, out with a broken toe, is the top scorer under Tite, having netted five goals in six matches. Firmino, Neymar and Philippe Coutinho will be charged with finding the net in his absence.
They should get the opportunity to do so. Brazil have averaged the most shots in away games in the current WC Qualifying campaign with 14.3 per game.
"Brazil's attacking potential will not change the way we will play," Tabarez said. "They can do a lot of things during the match, but they can't do anything that will alter our resolve to overcome our difficulties. That is very important for us."
Brazil and Uruguay last met in qualifying one year ago, when the Selecao lost a surrendered a two-goal lead as they were held a 2-2 draw in Recife.
Tite will field a team in Montevideo that will see just one other change to the XI that began his first match in charge, with Coutinho having relegated Willian to the bench.
Miranda captain Brazil for the second time under Tite, who continues his policy of rotating the armband around the senior members of the squad.