Sao Paulo: Brazil will be missing nine of their players from the English Premier League for their next three World Cup qualifiers, including Thursday’s clash at Chile. However, second-placed Argentina expects to have four of their England-based players at Venezuela on the same day.
The Premier League clubs had said they would block their players from traveling to South American nations, which are red-listed by the British government because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any players who go and then return to Britain have to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine and have little chance of training.
Fifa had granted two additional days for South American countries to play games in both September and October so three qualifiers can be played in each window, rather than the usual two.
The round-robin competition will play on as scheduled despite resistance from English clubs, though some who travelled will return to before the third game - scheduled for September 9.
Fifa has told South American soccer body CONMEBOL there will be consequences for clubs who don’t release players as required, which could mean disciplinary action.
On Sunday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against a complaint by the Spanish league, which argued that the triple-header of fixtures would end too close to the resumption of its competition.
The diplomatic rift continue in October, when each team has another set of three games.
Brazil leads with six wins in six matches, but few analysts are taking any risks predicting who will play against seventh place Chile in Santiago on Thursday. The first training sessions in Sao Paulo did not offer any hints.
Nine England-based Brazil players did not come: Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Ederson, Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Fred (Manchester United), Richarlison (Everton) and Raphinha (Leeds).
Second placed Argentina, with 12 points, will have four Premier League players for the match in Caracas: Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia and Tottenham’s Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero. They were also in the squad that won Copa America in Brazil in July.
Captain Lionel Messi, who finally lifted a major trophy with Argentina in July, will play for his country for the first time as a Paris Saint-Germain player.
Venezuela will be coached by Leonardo Gonzalez, the third man to take the job during the current World Cup qualifying campaign. The former defender replaced Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro, who resigned in August because of debts owed to him and his staffers by the federation.
Also Thursday, third place Ecuador will host Paraguay. Colombia will travel to Bolivia. Peru will host Uruguay, which will be without Edinson Cavani (not released by Manchester United) and the injured Luis Suarez.