MONTEVIDEO (AFP) - Brazil and Argentina will seek to close in on top spot this weekend in Latin American World Cup qualifiers with the samba stars travelling to Venezuela while the 'albiceleste' host neighbouring Uruguay.
The two giants, who between them have won seven World Cups, both stand four points behind surprise package Paraguay after eight matches but Brazil will expect to reduce the margin by claiming three points in San Cristobal on Sunday.
Olympic champions Argentina will have, on paper at least, a harder task to make short work of a Uruguayan side which, while not comparing to the World Cup-winning vintages of 1930 and 1950, nonetheless stands only a point behind their hosts.
A Uruguayan win would vault them to provisional second in the table and, having already dropped home points to the Paraguayans, Argentina - as well as, more alarmingly, to Ecuador - cannot take their visitors lightly as they seek to end a six-match run of draws.
Coach Alfio Basile is, if local media reports are to be believed, set to play three up front - Carlos Tevez, Leo Messi and Sergio Aguero - but leave Juan Roman Riquelme benched.
That is likely to be more a tactical choice than one of a personal nature - Boca Juniors star Riquelme was earlier this week described by Paraguayan clubmate Julio Cesar Caceres as being a "complicated person who is difficult to get on with."
The spat came with Boca having lost three of their last four matches.
Former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze is set to feature alongside Nicolas Burdisso and Martin Demichelis despite an own goal against Paraguay, after which he was dropped.
Liverpool's midfield hardman Javier Mascherano will boss the engine room.
Brazil, having seen Argentina hold them to a goalless draw on home soil last June and then suffered the same result at home to modest Bolivia, have blown hot and cold in their matches but have managed to stay in touch.
Coach Dunga has to overcome injuries to Chelsea's Alex and Julio Baptista of Roma - their replacements are Hamburg defender Silva and Porto Alegre winger Alex - but should benefit from the return of star midfielder Kaka, the 2007 European footballer of the Year.
The AC Milan star's last qualifier was against Uruguay, in November 2007 prior to a knee injury which required surgery.
Porto Alegre's Alex said he was delighted to have made the squad.
"This is a childhood dream," the Brazilian Football Confederation quoted him as saying and explaining how his father predicted when he was just four that "one day you'll play for Brazil."
On hearing of his call up he phoned and told his father "Pop, you were right. I've got the call-up."
Only two of the Brazilians are home-based whereas five are playing in the English Premiership - midfielders Lucas of Liverpool, Anderson of Manchester Unite and Manchester City's Elano and City strikers Jo and Robinho.
Dunga has left out Kaka clubmate Ronaldinho, explaining that "Ronaldinho has not had enough time to improve with his new club. He is missing rhythm".
Dunga is expected to send out an attacking line-up with Kaka supporting Robinho and Inter Milan's Adriano.
Venezuela are in the bottom three and are five points off the fifth place which would mean a playoff against the fourth-placed team in the CONCACAF zone for a backdoor World Cup finals berth in South Africa.
Paraguay's quest to hold on to their top spot has been hit by injury to Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz, who misses Saturday's trip to Colombia with a pulled leg muscle suffered in Saturday's 2-0 home defeat to Premiership champions Manchester United.
Eduardo Lara will be out to make a winning start as coach of the Colombians having replaced sacked Jorge Luis Pinto, fired after losses to Uruguay and Chile.
Colombia are presently sixth in the table after eight matches, three points adrift of the fourth and last automatic qualifying spot for the finals.
In a bottom of the table encounter Saturday, Bolivia will make Peru clamber up to high altitude at La Paz while Chile, level on points with Argentina and Brazil, will travel to an Ecuador side still in contention.
|MLS All-Stars 2 Tottenham 1: Kane stunner can´t spare Spurs|
|Manchester United 0 Paris Saint-Germain 2: Van Gaal´s defensive frailties exposed|
|Tigres UANL 0 River Plate 0: Visitors lose Gallardo in Copa Libertadores final first leg|
|Penedo parts ways with Galaxy|
|Benitez backs Mihajlovic, Milan to succeed|
|Barnetta joins Union in MLS|
|Allegri critical of Morata´s attitude|
|Franjic targets more A-League glory with City|
|Beto undaunted by Super Cup clash against Barca|
|Advocaat upbeat despite another Sunderland flop|
|McClaren praises Newcastle recruit Mitrovic|
|Payet will improve West Ham - Bilic|
|Pulis confirms interest in Lambert|
|Deila expects tough test in Baku|
|Drogba mobbed by Montreal Impact fans|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Ajax spurn two-goal lead at 10-man Rapid|
|Sunderland´s struggles continue as Doncaster cruise to win|
|Mahrez and Nugent on target in Leicester win|
|Mitrovic tastes debut defeat for Newcastle|
|Celtic 1 Qarabag 0: Boyata snatches crucial win|
|Jablonec 0 Copenhagen 1: Verbic cracker gives Danes the edge|
|Norwich sign Wisdom on loan from Liverpool|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Koeman plays down importance of Vitesse links|
|Schneiderlin keen to learn from experienced duo|
|Mandzukic´s maiden Juventus goal seals win in Poland|
|Fofana completes Bastia loan|
|Deila delighted that Gordon pledges future to Celtic|
|Grenier ruled out for four months|
|Rooney: United squad ready for title challenge|
|Messi and Neymar available for start of season|
|Szczesny seals Roma switch|
|Benitez cools Mourinho war of words|
|Filipe Luis vows to win back Atletico fans|
|Besiktas in negotiations over Gomez switch|
|Kishna seals Lazio switch|
|Diaby completes Marseille move|
|Platini is bad for FIFA - Prince Ali|
|Bilic keen to make further additions|
|Brady makes Norwich move|
|Southampton complete Caulker loan|
|Rummenigge feels Muller ´will never leave´ Bayern|
|Platini to stand in FIFA presidential election|
|Howedes to remain Schalke skipper|
|Albion sign Hull defender Chester|
|Lucescu defends Fred selection amid doping allegations|
|Fabregas still in love with Arsenal|
|Luis Enrique ´happy´ with Barca´s US trip|
|Mourinho optimistic over Cahill and Costa|
|River owe Tigres´ Esqueda - Mercado|
|Van Gaal expecting big season from Shaw|
|Begovic keen to challenge Courtois|
|Mourinho launches attack on Benitez|
|CONMEBOL ´knocked on a lot of doors´ to keep half-spot - president|
|America 0 Benfica 0 (3-4 on penalties): Primeira Liga champions finally win|
|Napoli striker Higuain ´untouchable´ - Gabbiadini|
|Arsenal´s friendly form will boost confidence - Wenger|
|Nagatomo-Melo swap possible, says agent|
|Chelsea 2 Barcelona 2 (4-2 on penalties): Courtois stars for Premier League champions|
|Eriksen calls for ruthless Spurs|
|Pulis praises Berahino attitude|
|Alderweireld confident of top-four finish|
|Villa ready for tough Spurs clash|
|West Ham edge win on Carrow Road anniversary|
|Kozak scores twice as Villa draw at Wolves|
|Stanislas brace leads Bournemouth past Yeovil|
|Watford slip to friendly defeat at Cardiff|
|Lukaku injury sours Everton win at Dundee|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Fenerbahce draw blank as Monaco impress|
|West Brom earn friendly win over Walsall|
|Vardy at the double as Leicester beat Burton|
|Atletico impress in win over Oviedo|
|Herrera sacked by Mexico after ´punch´|
|Gerrard, Keane and Bradley pull out of MLS All-Star squad|
|Marseille reach Diaby agreement|
|Sammer thrilled with Vidal´s winning mentality|
|Platini expected to launch FIFA presidency bid|
|Romanov sacked me over Barca snub - Korobochka|
|Villa complete Crespo capture|
|Wolfsberger v Borussia Dortmund: Bender praises ´fun but exhausting´ training|
|Okaka swaps Sampdoria for Anderlecht|
|Southampton v Vitesse: Fonte excited for ´dream´ sojourn into Europe|
|Bournemouth agree King compensation|
|West Ham v Astra: Kouyate confident West Ham can progress|
|Vidal completes Bayern switch, signs four-year deal|
|Fabregas calls for Champions League improvement|
|BREAKING NEWS: Filipe Luis completes Atletico return|
|Bayern to present Vidal|
|Wenger unfazed by Mourinho´s spending jibe|
|Pellegrini: Sterling will justify price tag|
|Cavani hit with two-match Uruguay ban|
|Bonucci to remain at Juve until 2020|
|No bids for Berahino - West Brom|
|Putin: Blatter deserves a Nobel prize|
|Howe: Swansea a benchmark for Bournemouth|
|New Parma to play in Serie D|
|Mata vows to hit the goal trail at United|
|Drogba ´perfect fit´ for Montreal|
|Berahino ´not yet´ ready for Tottenham - Irvine|
|Romero lauds caring Van Gaal|
|Jese flying at Real under Rafa|
|Sampdoria unwilling to pay €10m for Balotelli|
|Mourinho talks up Arsenal title chances|
|Hull sign Ryan Taylor, Sam Clucas|
|Kane, Pochettino hail MLS All-Star test|
|Di Santo sorry for swift Werder departure|