An injury to talisman Lionel Messi and suspensions of his defenders have created some serious thinking about Argentina’s lineup for Coach Edgardo Bauza ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier at home to Paraguay in Cordoba.
Messi, who missed the 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru with a groin injury that had his side drop from top of the South American qualifying group to fifth, looks set to return for his club Barcelona at the weekend. Bauza is holding his breath the five time Ballon d’Or winner stays healthy in the next month before they have to travel to Belo Horizonte to face arch-rivals Brazil on Nov. 10.
Nicolas Gaitan will stand in for Messi on the right side of the attack on Tuesday against Paraguay in place of Paulo Dybala, who started there in last week’s 2-2 draw with Peru in Lima, as he seeks better balance in his team.
Bauza, however, has more concerns with his defenders with Manchester City duo Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta and Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori all suspended, leaving only Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo in a revamped back line. Martin Demichelis will play in central defence.
Sergio Aguero has recovered from a calf niggle that forced his early second-half substitution in Lima and will start again behind Gonzalo Higuain in attack. Bauza’s side had led the South American group following their 1-0 win over Uruguay on Sept. 1 until Messi’s injury. They are now fifth, with the top four qualifying for Russia while the fifth-place team face an intercontinental playoff.