Messi still in discomfort: Argentina v Ecuador teams and preview

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With the news that Lionel Messi is still in some discomfort with the foot injury that he travelled to the United States with it would seem that Argentina will be forced to line-up without their influential captain for the second time this week. Ecuador are likely to represent a far greater challenge than El Salvador when the two sides meet this evening in New Jersey and Gerardo Martino is likely to name a starting eleven closer to his first choice. Messi would have been part of that side but injury looks like it will rule out the Barcelona forward.

Martino spoke to the press regarding Messi’s injury and said, in shoes he is comfortable, but wearing boots it hurts. We’ll see if he can play or not. We do not rule it out but there is no need to take a risk with Leo, nor with anyone. We must not risk. It would be unforgivable.”

Given Messi has not trained fully with the side in the US it would be a risk to play him against Ecuador, however minimal the injury maybe. The indication therefore is that Martino will replace Messi with either Ángel Di María, Federico Mancuello or Carlos Tevez coming into the side.

The starting eleven against El Salvador was for the most part a second string side and the expected line-up for later today looks stronger on paper.

Probable starting eleven:  Sergio Romero; Facundo Roncaglia, Ezequiel Garay, Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Rojo; Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Javier Pastore; Ángel Di María OR Federico Mancuello, Lionel Messi OR Carlos Tevez, Sergio Agüero

The assumption that if this is Martino’s preferred list of players then Sergio Romero remains as Argentina’s first-choice goalkeeper, as expected but elsewhere there could be some significant hints. Nicolás Otamendi partners Ezequiel Garay in the centre of defence and after his excellent season with Valencia he might just have earned himself a place in the heart of Argentina’s backline ahead of the Copa América.

Facundo Roncaglia takes Pablo Zabaleta’s place at right-back but it would be a surprise if this was a permanent switch. Rather Martino knew that the El Salvador match would not be the best opportunity to take a closer look at the on-loan Genoa defender. Against an Ecuador side who attack primarily down the flanks through Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia this should be a good test.

In midfield, Javier Mascherano takes his place in front of the back four and as expected he is joined by Lucas Biglia. Enzo Pérez was ruled out of the squad through injury and would have been in contention for one of these spots in the 4-3-3 but instead Martino is expected to name Paris St Germain midfielder, Javier Pastore.

Pastore has been in good form and will be tasked with providing much of the creativity from his central position as well as breaking forward to support the attack.

The attack has obviously had to be reshuffled in light of Messi’s niggle but this could be an indication that Martino favours Sergio Agüero as his number nine. Having previously stated that Agüero is in competition with Tevez and Higuaín for one place, this decision could be significant.

Goal scoring debutant, Federico Mancuello, could be named in the starting eleven after impressing in his twenty minute cameo against El Salvador. The Independiente captain was seen as a real outsider for the Copa América when he was first named but appears to be winning over several critics. Certainly his ability to play wide left in the attack and in the midfield three, as well as his eye for goal,makes him a useful player to have in the squad.

Ecuador are likely to line-up as follows: Alexander Domínguez; Juan Carlos Paredes, Arturo Mina, Frickson Erazo, Walter Ayoví; Osbaldo Lastra, Christian Noboa, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero; Miler Bolaños, Felipe Caicedo

Ecuador should at least provide the Argentine defence with some work and certainly in the previous two meetings that has been the case. A similar side drew 0-0 in a friendly also in New Jersey in 2013 and in World Cup qualification in June of the same year it ended 1-1. In fact in the previous five meeting between the two sides, the fixture has ended with three draws and one victory for both sides.

The El Salvador match revealed very little and so the hope for Gerardo Martino will be that tonight’s clash with Ecuador will answer some of his questions and give the side an opportunity to gain some further experience playing together.

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