Maradona fears injuries ahead of Brazil battle

BUENOS AIRES - Any injuries suffered by Argentina in a friendly in Russia next week could have a "catastrophic" effect on September's World Cup qualifier against Brazil, coach Diego Maradona said on Wednesday.

"I don't want to take any risks for the match against Brazil, we're 20 days away," said Maradona, who takes his team to Moscow next Wednesday without the injured Juan Sebastian Veron and Carlos Tevez.

"For one of our players to get hurt would be catastrophic and give Brazil much more of a chance," Maradona, veteran of many a battle with Argentina's arch-rivals as a player, told Radio Mitre.

Argentina are a precarious fourth in the South American group, behind leaders Brazil, Chile and Paraguay, with four games to go.

A victory over Confederations Cup and Copa America champions Brazil in Rosario on September 5 would ease their worries before a difficult trip to face Paraguay in Asuncion four days later.

The top four qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa while the team finishing fifth goes into a playoff with the fourth team in the CONCACAF region.

Argentina are only two points clear of fifth-placed Ecuador after their defeat in Quito in June.

"We have a great chance in our own country to get qualified and everyone knows that," Maradona said. "We're going to attack and exert pressure in all areas... They know they're playing Argentina and we'll make that count.

"We won't give Kaka and Robinho any room and when we have the ball we have to play it with precision."

Brazil, who visit Estonia for a friendly next week, have won their last eight games and have an impressive recent record against Argentina.

They won 4-1 at the Confederations Cup final in 2005 before chalking up 3-0 wins in a friendly in London in 2006 and the Copa America final in 2007. Argentina broke the run by holding them to a goalless draw away in a World Cup qualifier last year.