“The idea is to finish top of the group but not risk the players who are on yellow cards.”
Those were the words of Argentina coach Gerardo Martino during Monday’s press conference as his side look to defeat Bolivia and ensure their place in the quarter finals as winners of Group D.
Injuries have dominated La Albiceleste’s preparations and although Lionel Messi came off the treatment table to score a blistering hat trick against Panama, the tweak of Ángel Di María’s fragile hamstring means Gerardo Martino is once more forced to reshuffle.
The influential Paris St Germain midfielder could return for a potential semi final but for the time being joins the list of those that are either injured or at least just returning from injury layoffs.
With Javier Mascherano, Marcos Rojo, Augusto Fernández and Nicolás Gaitán all one yellow card away from suspension, they are set to be rested and so a much-changed and rather more attacking line up is expected on Tuesday night.
Gabriel Mercado is unlikely to be risked after limping out of training meaning Facundo Roncaglia will start at right back and Víctor Cuesta will come in for Marcos Rojo, pushing Ramiro Funes Mori to left back in a new look back four.
Atlético Madrid youngster Matías Kranevitter will replace Javier Mascherano, Érik Lamela will slot in on the left in place of the injured Di María and Ezequiel Lavezzi will return from injury to start ahead of Nicolás Gaitán.
Perhaps the one question mark is whether Gerardo Martino will risk starting Lionel Messi after the Barcelona admitted to still feeling some pain despite his sensational 30-minute cameo in the 5-0 win over Panama.
The Argentina coach told reporters, “Leo [Messi] is going to play,” appearing to confirm that the tournament’s main attraction would start for the first time.
However, when the squad took to the training field a little later, Martino tested two versions of the same eleven; one with Messi and another with Éver Banega keeping his place in attacking midfield.
Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergio Agüero could both start in Seattle despite Martino suggesting previously that there was room for only one ‘number nine’ in his side and after the Manchester City striker scored off the bench against Panama, both will be eager to stake a claim for the central role in the knockout stages.
Possible starting XI: Sergio Romero; Facundo Roncaglia, Nicolás Otamendi, Víctor Cuesta, Ramiro Funes Mori; Matías Kranevitter, Éver Banega or Lionel Messi, Érik Lamela; Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero
Following México and Venezuela’s 1-1 draw on Monday night, Argentina know that a point would be enough to top Group D and set up a quarter final against La Vinotinto in Foxborough.