Different Class: Roberto Firmino Must Lead Brazil's Line Ahead Of Jesus
Despite Brazil manager Tite preferring Gabriel Jesus in recent national games, as the 2018 World Cup draws closer, Roberto Firmino has shown why he deserves to be starting for Brazil in their opening game against Switzerland.
The Liverpool man's impressive tally of 25 goals and 14 assists this season is just the 'tip of the iceberg' for why Firmino should be selected ahead of Gabriel Jesus.
Of course, there's no denying that as a number nine, Jesus is likely a better fit, but is that what Brazil require? The South Americans are not a team who lack goalscorers.
Significantly, Neymar's return from injury means that Brazil will benefit more from building a team who can provide service to their star man.
In the Premier League last season, Roberto Firmino created 56 chances in 29 appearances (1.93 per game). By contrast, Jesus made just 18 chances for his teammates in 29 appearances (0.62 per game).
Surprisingly, the statistics show the Liverpool man created over three times as many chances as his Brazilian compatriot over the course of the Premier League season.
In a crucial tournament such as the World Cup, Firmino's ability to create chances could be key, especially in the games against stronger opponents in the latter stages.
The role of a forward has evolved in recent times and, if you're not a tall target man who remains high up the field at all times, there's no excuse for not working hard.
As a result, Firmino's high work-rate leads to excellent defensive contribution, registering 1.8 tackles per game. Away from the statistics, Jurgen Klopp's forward applies constant pressure to the opponents' defence and can often force mistakes with intelligent pressing.
Noticeably for Liverpool, Roberto Firmino's tireless work rate has been vital in the club's successful 2017/18 season. The work of the Brazilian forward enables players around him; it's no surprise that Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were able to flourish alongside the intelligence of Firmino.
Correspondingly, If Brazil aims to get the best out of Neymar, it must be the Liverpool forward who leads the line for the Seleção.
Of course, it would be a concern if Manchester City's forward outscored Firmino significantly, but the statistics show that the Liverpool man has improved greatly since acquiring the number nine shirt.
Gabriel Jesus scored 15 goals from 25 starts for Pep Guardiola's team last season, whilst Firmino found the net on 25 occasions from 43 starts. In terms of scoring goals from starting the match, this shows an insignificant advantage of 0.02 for the City striker.
Is a 0.02 difference in goalscoring enough to tip the scales? When considering the other elements of Firmino's game which are so beneficial to the team, as well as Neymar's return to the side, it seems that Brazil would benefit much more from starting with the Liverpool man upfront.
In any case, the World Cup favourites have a wealth of attacking options and, after remaining unbeaten in their last 10 games, are in great form heading into the tournament. Brazil fans will be hopeful of their chances to bring the trophy back to South America.