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Who will replace Jesus? Decision time as Tite to name latest Brazil squad

00:39 GMT 02/03/2017
Tite Brasil vs Colombia amistoso 25 01 2017
The Selecao will be without the Man City starlet for March qualifiers vs Uruguay and Paraguay while Real Madrid's Casemiro is expected to return

After almost four months without a full international, Brazil will return to the field in March for World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay.

The Conmebol double-header could see the resurgent Selecao mathematically secure qualification for Russia 2018 after coach Tite arrived in June of last year to lead the five-time world champions to six consecutive victories.

On Friday, Tite will announce his 23-man squad for the fixtures in Montevideo and Sao Paulo. And it is set to be perhaps the most intriguing list since his appointment as, for the first time since his arrival, the coaching staff have enjoyed an extended period observing those in contention.

Last month the coaching team attended a number of matches across Europe as they cast keen eyes over dozens of Selecao hopefuls.

The biggest decision facing the boss this month is who will lead the line in the absence of Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, who will miss both matches after suffering a metatarsal injury which required surgery in February.

The centre-forward position had been an issue for Brazil coaches since World Cup 2014, and could rear its head once more with Jesus missing.

Some reports in Brazil have suggested Sport Recife's Diego Souza did enough in January’s 1-0 victory over Colombia – a match restricted to domestic-based players – and will join Neymar and Philippe Coutinho in attack.

Dudu also starred in that fixture and could be in contention, however that would mean a significant tactical rethink as Palmeiras man does not operate as an orthodox no.9. Gremio’s Luan Garcia will also be hopeful of a call after impressing as a false no.9 during the Olympics.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino could adopt a similar role, while Inter’s Gabriel Barbosa could directly replace Jesus though his lack of playing time in Serie A may see him overlooked.

With little time to work with his players during his first six months in charge, Tite quickly settled on a regular starting XI, with Willian the only player to lose his place due to anything other than injury or suspension, when he was replaced by Coutinho.

Few real changes are expected, though a number of outfield reserve positions are up for grabs.

Mainstays Renato Augusto and Paulinho may be hamstrung by the fact that Chinese Super League only kicked off last week, but they will likely be called up and once again asked to report for a duty a few days earlier to work on their fitness.

Real Madrid’s Casemiro is also set to return, and could well force Man City’s Fernandinho to return to the bench.

Further back, the choice of goalkeeper has become a major talking point. Alisson has started all six matches under Tite but his significant lack of playing time since joining Italian club Roma is fast becoming an issue.

Alisson has the backing of goalkeeping coach Taffarel, which may be enough to retain his place, but is facing stiff competition. Atletico-PR’s Weverton helped Brazil to Olympic gold in August and got the nod ahead of Flamengo’s Alex Muralha against Colombia. 

But there are increasing calls for Valencia’s Diego Alves to be introduced to the side, with many believing him to be the strongest goalkeeper available to the Selecao. He is yet to make a single Tite squad.

As is Benfica’s Ederson, who has relegated former Selecao custodian Julio Cesar to the bench in Portugal and no doubt impressed the watching Taffarel last month when he turned in a fine performance against Dortmund in the Champions League which included a penalty-save from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Brazil meet Uruguay at the Estadio Centenario on March 23 before hosting Paraguay at the Arena Corinthians on March 28.