Brazil vs Colombia Preview: Luiz Gustavo Suspension Will Worry Hosts
Without him, will Brazil’s whole system fall apart?
Joe Giddens/EMPICS SportOn the eve of Brazils World Cup quarter-final with Colombia, it would be fair to say that Luiz Felipe Scolari has a few tactical headaches. His star player Neymar is struggling with an injury, while the lack of goals from out of form striker Fred is also a worry. However, perhaps most concerning of all is the absence of Luiz Gustavo. The holding midfielder is suspended for the hosts' match and this causes several issues for Scolari. In a team focused on attacking and flair, Gustavos role as the teams water carrier cannot be underplayed. Sitting in front of the back four, he is responsible for providing the defence with valuable protection, giving full backs Marcelo and Dani Alves the licence to maraude forward. Since last years Confederations Cup triumph, Gustavo has been a key part of the Brazil team. So much so that the 26-year-old almost joined Arsenal last summer, only for Wolfsburg to swoop in and sign him at the last minute. Without him, Brazils whole system could fall apart. To make matters worse, Gustavos role against Colombia would have been to nullify the threat of James Rodriguez. The 22-year-old has been the star of the tournament, leading the goal scoring charts and proving that Jose Pekermans side can thrive without the goal machine Radamel Falcao. Gustavos absence means Rodriguez could be given the freedom to run riot. Playing off the striker, the Monaco man will look to play in those pockets of space that Gustavo usually eradicates. So, how does Scolari cope without the presence of his defensive midfielder? Well, he has three real options. The first would be to push David Luiz into that defensive midfield position and replace him at centre back with Dante. The Bayern Munich player is a Champions League winner and at 30 years of age he is vastly experienced. However, he only has 12 international caps to his name and is also yet to make an appearance in the tournament. Something Scolari will undoubtedly be wary of. The second option would be to bring in Hernanes as a replacement for Gustavo. The Lazio star is very versatile and capable of playing in an offensive or defensive midfield role. While not a like for like replacement, the 29-year-old could certainly do a job in terms of covering for Gustavo. Hernanes also has 25 caps to his name, an indication that he has experience at this level. But again, he is yet to play in the tournament and his selection in Brazils 23-man squad also came as a shock to many. Seen as a wildcard, it would be bold for Scolari to pick him. The third and final option is the most likely of the trio. This would see Fernandinho come into the side in place of Gustavo. Although renowned for his lung busting runs, Fernandinho showed at Manchester City last season that he is capable of playing a holding role. The 29-year-old could partner Tottenhams Paulinho in midfield, providing the Brazilians with protection from the dangerous Rodriguez. Crucially, Fernandinho has already played in the tournament and experienced the pressure and atmosphere. It is for this reason that Scolari will most likely elect to bring in the Manchester City midfielder. His inclusion would see minimum rejigging of players, with Fernandinho slotting straight into the side. However, Fernandinho is by no means the perfect replacement for Gustavo. Indeed, he is simply the best of what is available. And when you are up against the tournaments best player, Rodriguez, that may just be Brazils undoing.