Ah. As a jealous Englishman, I long for the selection headache Argentina manager Gerardo Martino is currently suffering from. Do I pick Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero, the best player in the English Premier League, or Gonzalo ‘Golazo’ Higuaín, the top scorer in Italy’s Serie A… 15 goals ahead of the league’s second top scorer Argentine Paulo Dybala who’s ‘languishing’ on a mere 14 goals for the season?
Throw a certain Leo Messi into the mix, alongside Erik Lamela, Ángel Di María, et al. and it becomes blindingly obvious that Argentina has the world’s finest attacking talent at their disposal when la Selección comes up against old foes Chile tomorrow night in Santiago.
The qualifier has taken on an unexpected pressure for the Argentines, with the side taking just 5 points from its four matches thus far, currently 7 points behind leaders Ecuador who it lost to back in October. Along the way, la Selección has drawn with Brazil and Paraguay, while it defeated Colombia to claim its only win thus far in its qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
Part of the stumbling block along the way has been the absence of the talismanic Messi, who hasn’t made an appearance since June 2015, and his return has been described as “a relief” by Man City striker Agüero.
The training session held in Buenos Aires, which has overshadowed President Obama’s state visit, seems to indicate this line up to face the Chileans:
Gabriel Mercado, Nicolás Otamendi OR Martín Demichelis (depending on a knock Otamendi’s picked up), Ramiro Funes Mori, Marcos Rojo;
Éver Banega, Matías Kranevitter, Lucas Biglia;
Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María.
No Javier Mascherano, however, who’s suspended for, obviously, picking up too many yellow cards.
Chile meanwhile are expected to include star men Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez who’ll pose the most threat to Argentina’s chances, while Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo will take his place in the net.
Argentina will be confident of a win, having won three and drawn one of its last five matches against Chile, although Sánchez and co. will also have high hopes. A draw is not a favorable outcome for either outfit.
Kick off is at 20:30 Argentine time – be sure to get down to your local spot for this one.