Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli warned his team to beware a wounded Brazil as he revealed injury concerns over Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal ahead of their opening 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying clash. Newly-crowned Copa America champions Chile face Brazil in Santiago on Thursday, with the home side desperate to improve a poor record against the five-time world champions, who they have not beaten since 2000.
Brazil are still smarting over a disappointing quarter-final exit at the Copa America, which followed last year's traumatic 7-1 mauling by Germany in the World Cup semi-finals. However, Sampaoli is adamant that the Brazilians remain a potent force and admitted Wednesday he would have preferred to have launched Chile's qualification campaign against another side.
"Starting the qualifiers against Brazil is the worst possible scenario," Sampaoli said. "They are still the greatest power in the world, despite all the criticism, and they have elite players. Starting against Brazil or Argentina is much riskier than playing other teams."
Sampaoli meanwhile revealed that Arsenal star Sanchez and Bayern Munich midfielder Vidal had both linked up with the national squad carrying knocks. Vidal has been nursing a bruised knee while Sanchez tweaked a groin during his superb two-goal display in Arsenal's win over Manchester United on Sunday. Vidal has trained separately this week while Sanchez has been undergoing physiotherapy at Chile's training camp.
"They are both in the same condition. I can't confirm at this stage if either will be fit to face Brazil," Sampaoli said. "Of course they are very valuable to us but I am confident that if they are not available we have the squad to be competitive against Brazil or Peru," he added.