Luiz Felipe Scolari will today name a side to play at Stamford Bridge for the first time since his spell as Chelsea manager.
The Brazil national team boss was back at the stadium on Sunday afternoon for a training session ahead Monday evening’s match against Russia which kicks off at 7.30pm. Tickets are available to personal callers at the box office until 12 noon.
It will be Scolari’s third game since returning to the Brazil job in November, just over a decade after he led them to glory in the Far East, their fifth and most recent World Cup success.
Tonight’s meeting with Russia is an important part of their lead-up to this summer’s Confederations Cup in Brazil, which in turn is part of the preparations for their attempt to win the World Cup on home soil in 2014.
‘Everything is fine,’ Scolari announced following his training session at the Bridge.
‘The pitch as always is very good and my team is working quite well in that I believe we are improving a little bit since we started, and it has been really a joy to come back here to Chelsea and see you all because I did enjoy my time here.
‘The only thing I didn’t like, and I had totally forgotten about it, is the cold,’ he smiled. ‘I am not used to it anymore! The players have frozen fingers and toes but we have to overcome this and play.
‘Historically Russia has lost to Brazil but this is a different Russia from six or seven years ago. They are top of their qualification group and our players want to play against good teams so they can test themselves.’
A return to Stamford Bridge naturally led to Scolari being asked about the 2008/09 season during which he was manager here.
‘I believe my time at Chelsea wasn’t as bad as people have been talking about and the numbers show that – the games we won, but I can’t really tell if I would have won something or not.
‘I want to thank Chelsea for the opportunity of coming here. To have worked with the people here and had this time with the supporters was a great time, and living here in London with my family was one of the great experiences I have had in my life.’
Following tonight’s game, Brazil will play two friendlies at home ahead of the Confederations Cup but Scolari indicates he will not select European-based players for those two games.
He is keeping his line-up against Russia under wraps but Ramires is an injury doubt having missed Thursday’s 2-2 draw with Italy and Sunday’s training.
Scolari is expected to field David Luiz in central defence alongside returning captain Thiago Silva and the 64-year-old also spoke about using Oscar (pictured below) and Neymar in flexible roles in similar fashion to how he deployed Rivaldo and Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup. The two current players shared the duties of attacking Italy and tracking Andrea Pirlo in last week’s game.
David Luiz is ready for a very competitive fixture tonight against a side well on its way to Brazil 2014, having not let in a goal in their four World Cup qualifiers so far.
‘The Russia team is strong and are more rested having not been able to play their last game so I do expect a difficult game,’ said the Chelsea man. ‘I believe Brazil needs to play an almost perfect game and that is what we try to do.
‘It is always special to wear the national team shirt and it is going to be a special day to play with my national team in my home stadium, but I don’t want to get away from the main focus which is to win the game.’
Another member of the Brazil squad, Hulk, who currently plays in Russia at Zenit St Petersburg, is not surprised to see three of his international colleagues now well-established at Chelsea.
‘We are all friends in the national team, it feels like a big family, and they are doing well at Chelsea not only because they are such good players but also because they are good people. I wish now that we can all get together and do what we have to do which is to win the game.’