Argentina were already facing the daunting task of addressing their poor start to World Cup qualification in this month’s matches with Brazil and Colombia without captain Lionel Messi and first-choice striker, Sergio Agüero but Gerardo Martino will now also be without two of his preferred back four. Injuries to Pablo Zabaleta and Ezequiel Garay will force La Albiceleste into further changes and Martino has reacted by calling upon Argentine Primera defenders, Jonathan Maidana and Gino Peruzzi.
Following defeat by Ecuador and a draw with Paraguay, Brazil could hardly arrive to the Monumental on November 12th, with Argentina and Gerardo Martino under any more pressure. With the absence of Messi and Agüero already to contend with, Martino would have been praying for no further bad news. However, Manchester City have confirmed that Pablo Zabaleta suffered a medial knee ligament injury in their Capital One cup victory against Crystal Palace and that has been compounded with the news that Ezequiel Garay will miss both Argentina fixtures with a hamstring injury.
The withdrawals of both has prompted Martino to give recalls to two Argentine-based players – River Plate’s Jonathan Maidana and Boca Juniors’ Gino Peruzzi. Both will report to training at Ezeiza on Monday but have appeared for the senior side before at earlier stages in their careers.
Maidana last played in a friendly in 2011 under Sergio Batista, while Peruzzi featured during World Cup 2014 qualification for Alejandro Sabella. Chances are neither will feature in the matches with Brazil and Colombia as Martino will supposedly turn to his favoured stand-ins – Facundo Roncaglia at right-back and Ramiro Funes Mori or Martín Demechelis in the centre.
Up against Neymar, Douglas Costa and Willian, Argentina must defend far better than they did against Ecuador and Dunga will no doubt view Roncaglia as a real point of weakness in drawing up his match strategy. With this in mind, Martino may want to take a closer look at Peruzzi, who rose to prominance while at Vélez Sarsfield when he marked a young Neymar out of a Copa Libertadores clash before the Santos star made the switch to Barcelona. It was this performance that really put Peruzzi on the map and although his short career in Europe with Catania did not work out, he has quietly rebuilt his reputation with Boca this season.
It may be deemed a bit of a risk to throw Peruzzi in for a match as big as Brazil but Roncaglia has failed to impress so far and the Boca defender is a natural full-back, unlike converted centre-back, Roncaglia. Either way, Martino would be wise to ensure that his midfield provides far more protection to the flanks than was given against Ecuador.
Maidana is even less likely to play given Nicolás Otamendi and Martín Demechelis are in front of him but does already have an excellent partnership with Funes Mori, after the two excelled in River Plate’s Copa Libertadores triumph. Already at the age of thirty, Maidana’s opportunity to claim a regular place in the Argentina squad has probably passed but the River Plate defender, often outshone Funes Mori and will provide reliable back-up.