We don’t mind international friendlies, as long as they don’t get in the way of the league matches. In some sort of preview to the Champions League, five quite interesting matches have been set up for the midweek international break: Spain playing Uruguay, England vs Brazil, Netherlands hosting Italy, France taking on Germany and the Lionel Messi – Zlatan Imbrahimovic duel in Argentina vs Sweden.
Spain vs Uruguay, 18:00 GMT
An interesting matchup between the world champions and the Copa America champions, a team most argue are the best right now in South America. Spain aren’t playing Xavi and Xabi Alonso, both injured, but with the Qataris paying Spain $4 million to play their friendly in Doha, they’ll field something close to their strongest side. There’s a good chance Michu will make his debut in the starting lineup, and David Villa, despite not playing for Barcelona, will also get a chance. Uruguay aren’t in the best of form in their World Cup qualifiers, having lost three of their past four, falling to fifth place.
England vs Brazil, 19:30 GMT
England haven’t beaten Brazil in 23 years, and tend to not do too well against the strong rivals they set up for themselves in these friendly matches. Seven years after Brazil opened the new Wembley stadium with a 1-1 draw, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho and Dani Alves are the only players left from that inaugural match set to play in this one. For England, Jack Wilshere, under enormous pressure for both club and country, will have his chance to prove his class on the international stage as well, while for Brazil, Ronaldinho will try to make it more than just a friendly invitation, and hopefully begin cementing his place for the 2014 World Cup.
Netherlands vs Italy, 19:30 GMT
Italy will feature the Milan striking duo, Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy, heading the attack, as Prandelli hopes that what worked so well against Udinese in Balotelli’s return match to the Serie A will work well in Amsterdam. Louis van Gaal won’t have esley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, John Heitinga, Maarten Stekelenburg and Rafael van der Vaart, which will give players like Benfica winger Ola John, Ajax defender Daley Blind and Swansea’s Jonathan De Guzman a chance to get some minutes in the Oranje uniform.
Sweden vs Argentina, 19:30 GMT
Argentina do have Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain at their disposal, but they’re back from recent injuries, which means it’ll mostly be up to Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria to keep one of the best front lineups in the world at order. Most of the problems for Argentina are in the back, where they will to try and slow down Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was on fire on the last international break.
France vs Germany, 20:00 GMT
Germany are very much interested in starting 2013 with a win, failing to do so on their last four year openers since beating Norway in 2008, losing to Norway, Argentina and France and drawing with Italy in the subsequent years. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer won’t be available for Low, but that just gives him a chance to use others knocking on the hard to reach Germany doorstep. France don’t have too many problems with their lineup, and will feature Franck Ribery facing his Bayern Munich teammate, Philipp Lahm.