Due to a still running international suspension and a severe injury, only one of Barcelona’s astounding attacking trio is set to appear in Thursday’s loaded South American World Cup qualifying slate. Neymar, Brazil's creative forward, is expected to start in Selecao’s matchup with Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
However, Messi is still recovering from left knee ligament injury and is unlikely to return to the pitch until Barcelona’s first El Clasico with Real Madrid on Nov. 21.
Neymar’s played so well this season, piling up 16 goals and seven assists in 16 matches for La Liga table leaders Barcelona, that Brazil coach Dunga believes he’s surpassed club teammate Messi and Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
"If we look at the ranking by numbers and statistics, Neymar is superior right now," Dunga told reporters on Wednesday. "Messi is injured, Cristiano is expected to repeat what he did last year."
Crediting Barcelona for bringing out the best in the 23-year-old since he arrive there in 2013, Dunga even cited Messi’s prolonged injury as a reason for Neymar’s ascendance.
"Neymar has improved consistently since he arrived at Barcelona [in 2013]," Dunga said. "He has done all that was expected of him with Messi out. He's in great form."
Brazil’s currently fifth out of 10 places on the CONMEBOL table following Oct. 14’s 3-1 victory over Venezuela and the 2-0 loss to Copa America winners Chile six days prior, but Neymar was absent from both while he served a ban for his violent actions in the 1-0 letdown to Colombia in the Copa American this summer.
But Neymar’s set to return and earn his 68th cap for Brazil, totaling 46 goals and serving as captain beside defenders Miranda and David Luiz.
Luis Suarez, stepping up his scoring efforts in Messi’s now seven-week absence from Camp Nou, has scored six goals in the Catalans' last four matches across all competitions. But the Uruguayan is still serving an international ban after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and won’t feature against Ecuador.