Brazil are afraid of Messi - Pratto

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Argentina forward Lucas Pratto claims Brazil fear midfield maestro Lionel Messi as the two South American giants prepare to lock horns.

Thursday will see CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying leaders Brazil host rivals Argentina in Belo Horizonte.

The stakes are high for Argentina, who are five points adrift of Brazil in sixth after 10 matches, and Pratto heaped pressure on the hosts with five-time Ballon d'Or Messi back in the squad having missed the past three qualifiers due to a knee injury.

"They know that Leo is very tough. They are a little scared," Pratto - based in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro - told Argentine newspaper Ole.

"Or maybe more than a little."

Messi's return is a boost for Argentina, who have struggled in the Barcelona star's absence.

While the 29-year-old was injured, Argentina lost to Paraguay and drew with Peru and Venezuela.

Brazil, meanwhile, have won four consecutive qualifiers.