As the World Cup opening ceremony draws ever nearer, and the caterpillars in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s chest turn into fully-fledged butterflies, Brazil’s manager has every reason to be smug.
Not only are Brazil hosts and favourites to lift the trophy at 3/1, they have also enjoyed a spectacular run of good fortune with injuries, so much so that Scolari could name the exact side that started four of their five Confederations Cup games last summer.
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However, while that Canarinho selection has done the business of late, winning 14 of their past 15 games, the Brazil boss would be wise to break up the midfield partnership of Luis Gustavo and Paulinho.
Waiting in the wings are Man City’s Fernandinho and Chelsea’s Ramires, and it is the Sky Blues’ midfielder who should replace Paulinho in Brazil’s first team.
Both Fernandinho and Paulinho moved to the Premier League for big money last season, and it is unequivocally the City man who has enjoyed his debut year in England more.
Following his move from Shakhtar Donetsk, the 27-year-old has taken up station next to Yaya Toure in the Citizens’ midfield, where his box-to-box antics helped yield both the Capital One Cup and the Premier League trophies.
Although, with six, Paulinho did bag one more league goal than Fernandinho, the City man can be said to have outperformed in every other area.
The former Shakhtar man primarily played in a more defensive role than the Spurs player, but still notched three assists to Paulinho’s two and created more chances per game with 1.24 compared to 0.70.
In terms of defensive contribution, Fernandinho wipes the floor with Paulinho, averaging 4.45 tackles plus interceptions per game compared to 3.18.
It was not only the Spurs man that Fernandinho bested last year, but also Chelsea’s Ramires, who registered just one league goal and two assists last season as well as contributing less than his City rival defensively.
Brazilians have fled the Ukraine with increasing regularity in recent transfer windows with one eye on Scolari’s first team, and Fernandinho has proved at the Premier League champions that he is the man to drive the hosts to World Cup glory.