The marathon that is the South American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia judders back into action on Thursday evening with three Barça players potentially involved. In the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, venue for the first ever World Cup final back in 1930, a Uruguay side without the suspended Luis Suárez take on a Brazil side led by Barça striker Neymar.
Across the Río de la Plata in Buenos Aires, an Argentina side with Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano take on Chile in the Estadio Monumental. Coach Edgardo Bauza confirmed that both Barça players would be in the starting line up in his pre-game press conference on Wednesday in the Argentine capital.
South American qualification sees all 10 Conmebol countries play each other home and away in the qualification phase with the top four passing directly to Russia 2018 and the fifth placed side going into a play off with a side from Oceania.
After 12 games so far, Brazil top the group with 27 points with Uruguay in second place four points behind. The top two meet in the Uruguayan capital with the home side unable to call on the services of Barça striker Luis Suárez and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera due to suspension. The visitors, however, can call on the services of blaugrana striker Neymar who has scored four times already in the qualification stage.
Uruguay will be aiming for a first victory over Brazil since 2001 to cut the gap on the leaders in the South American qualifying group.
Argentina have not been at their best in the qualifying so far and are currently fifth in the table on 19 points, a point behind fourth placed Chile. The two teams meet in Buenos Aires with Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano ready to help the albiceleste in a vital clash with a Chile side who defeated the Argentines on penalties in the final of the last two Copa América tournaments in 2015 and 2016.
In the second round of fixtures next Tuesday, Argentina travel to La Paz to take on Bolivia, Brazil are at home to Paraguay and Uruguay have an away fixture in Peru.
Back in Europe, Denis Suárez is in the Spain U21 squad that faces Denmark in Murcia (7.30pm CET) in a friendly. The team coached by former blaugrana Albert Celades will play a second friendly next Monday in Rome against Italy.