In the last FIFA date of 2017, Uruguay will play friendlies on the old continent against Poland (10 November) and Austria (14 November) as the country starts preparing for the World Cup of next summer.
Usual suspects Luis Suárez, Sebastián Coates, Martín Cáceres and Fernando Muslera haven’t made the squad final squad for various reason – not technical ones – while Diego Godín and Cristhian Stuani are expected to miss Uruguay first game against Poland due to muscle fatigue. It presents Tabárez with the chance to experiment and hand out some debuts.
Slowly but surely Tabárez has been rejuvenating the Uruguay squad and in the upcoming set of friendlies, we could see one of the most youthful La Celeste sides of recent times take the field. Midfield prospects Nahitan Nández, Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur and Giorgian De Arrascaeta have already been given a more prominent role in the last few games and have drastically improved the Uruguay team.
A midfield three of Valverde, Bentancur and the slightly more experienced Matías Vecino with De Arrascaeta just in front of them, functioning as the link between midfield and attack, looks to be the way going forward. The midfield provides tactical knowledge, work ethic, ball retention and adds some extra quality in possession. Tabárez will try to further establish the midfield in these preparatory friendlies.
So the midfield personnel has changed for the better. The same should happen to the full-back positions, especially the right-back spot. Currently occupying that area is Uruguay’s most-capped player Maxi Pereira. However, as his club coach has already acknowledged by hardly giving him playing time, Pereira is past his peak years and is regressing massively.
Both in defense and in attack Pereira is not reliable anymore as his legs are completely gone. Tabárez seems to have realized it, though, having called up Peñarol right-back Guillermo Varela. Varela, who played a handful of games for Manchester United in the 2015/16 season and basically failed in Europe has regained some form back in Uruguay over the past few months and is clearly an upgrade on Pereira.Embed from Getty Images
With the right-back spot up for grabs, Varela will try and impress Tabárez in this international break. A player that could also provide competition for the right-back position is Danubio player José Luís Rodríguez. The 20-year-old has impressed for Uruguay U20 and perhaps is even slightly ahead of Varela in terms of quality.
Other players that could be given playing time against Poland and Austria include Gastón Pereiro, Mauricio Lemos and Maxi Gómez – all of whom are still seeking for their Uruguay debut.
Anyway, it will be fascinating to see how Uruguay’s young guns will do in these friendlies.