Argentina captain Lionel Messi, his Barcelona cohort Javier Mascherano and soon to be former-Sevilla midfielder, Ever Banega finally linked up with the rest of Gerardo Martino’s Copa América squad in Ezeiza on Wednesday.
Argentina begin their preparations for the tournament opener on June 6th against Chile with a friendly against Honduras on Friday in San Juan and so Martino is assessing his squad and settling on what will be the starting eleven.
Minus Messi and Banega, Martino tested the following line-up ahead of Friday:
Sergio Romero; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolás Otamendi, Ramiro Funes Mori, Marcos Rojo; Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Erik Lamela; Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, Ángel Di María
The team is very similar to that which chalked up back-to-back wins in World Cup qualifying back in March with Messi and Banega’s absences the only difference.
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) May 25, 2016
Captain Messi will be available on Friday, and will likely come in on the right of the attacking three meaning that Higuaín or Agüero will play as the central nine, before the five-time Ballon d’Or winner must fly back to Spain for a court hearing.
Tottenham star, Erik Lamela could have a great opportunity ahead of the tournament to showcase his talents if indeed he does get the nod over Ever Banega on Friday. The former River forward, is a versatile member of Martino’s squad and after a good season in England has earned his place in the 23.
The only remaining doubt within Martino’s squad is the fitness of Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Both are yet to train with the group after arriving with muscular injuries and are still being assessed.
Argentina’s medical staff remain confident that both will be available but Martino is supposedly going to make a decision on Thursday over whether he needs to call up replacements.
If, as some reports suggest, they will only be fit for the quarter-final stage then it would be prudent to select alternatives.