Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Colombia after missing the last three due to injury in which his team have dropped seven points.
Messi was named on Friday in coach Edgardo Bauza’s 26-man squad and will captain Argentina away to arch-rivals Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Nov. 10 and at home against Colombia in San Juan five days later.
Argentina have slipped down the South American group standings to fifth after a shock 1-0 home defeat by Paraguay and 2-2 draws with Peru and Venezuela, all without Messi.
They have 16 points from 10 matches, five less than leaders Brazil with Uruguay second on 20 and Ecuador and Colombia on 17. The top four go through to the 2018 finals in Russia with the fifth qualifying for an intercontinental playoff for another berth.
Valencia winger Enzo Perez, who last played for Argentina in a 1-0 away win over Colombia in a qualifier last November, has been recalled.
There were first call-ups for right back Julio Buffarini, a key member of the San Lorenzo side Bauza coached to the Copa Libertadores title in 2014 who now plays for Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Racing Club midfielder Marcos Acuna.
Bauza has dropped Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo, Tottenham Hotspur’s Erik Lamela and midfielder Matias Kranevitter of Sevilla.
— Argentina Football (@ARG_soccernews) October 21, 2016
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Nahuel Guzman (UANL Tigres), Geronimo Rulli (Real Sociedad)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Martin Demichelis (Espanyol), Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Otamendi (both Manchester City), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Julio Buffarini (Sao Paulo), Emmanuel Mas (San Lorenzo)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Guido Pizarro (UANL Tigres), Nicolas Gaitan (Atletico Madrid), Ever Banega (Inter Milan), Angel Di Maria (Paris St Germain), Enzo Perez (Valencia), Marcos Acuna (Racing Club)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Pratto (Atletico Mineiro), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain (both Juventus)