For the second consecutive international break, Roberto Firmino will not be part of the Brazil squad, with the Liverpool striker’s ongoing injuries keeping him out.
This season has seen the rigours of Firmino’s all-action style of centre-forward play catch up with him, with three different injury problems limiting his minutes.
With 10 games left to play in the Premier League and up to eight more across the Champions League and FA Cup, the No. 9 is likely to end the campaign having made the fewest appearances of his Liverpool career.
At present, he has made 24 in all competitions, and in five of his previous six seasons at Anfield, he has tallied at least double that – his lowest came in 2016/17, with 41.
For Brazil manager Tite, this has effectively forced his hand when it comes to putting together a squad, with Firmino left out for his country’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Chile (March 24) and Bolivia (March 30).
Instead, Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli has received his first-ever senior call-up, along with Neymar, Richarlison, Vinicius Jr, Antony, Raphinha and Rodrygo.
Firmino has only just returned to availability after six games out with an adductor problem, with it understandable that Tite would not include him due to a lack of game time.
He has also suffered two hamstring injuries, in September and November, with those fitness issues keeping him out of 18 games for Liverpool this term, while a bout of COVID-19 saw him miss another one.
It will be a frustrating time for the 30-year-old, who despite his injuries has scored eight goals and assisted four more in his 24 outings, averaging a direct contribution every 110 minutes.
With competition at his most fierce in Jurgen Klopp‘s attacking ranks, as Luis Diaz joins Diogo Jota in putting pressure on the long-established front three, Firmino faces a battle for his place with both club and country.
Firmino could come back into contention for the clash with Arsenal in midweek, though, with his situation far from terminal – he remains a vital player for Klopp, and one of the most important of his entire reign.