Lamela for Messi, Banega as no.10 & Rojo returns – Bauza prepares for Venezuela


With the injury to Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala’s suspension, Edgardo Bauza will be forced into changes for Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Venezuela on Tuesday. Sunday’s final training session at Ezeiza suggested Tottenham Hotspur’s Érik Lamela will fill the void left by Messi on the right of the attack and Éver Banega would reclaim his place in the attacking midfield role, tasked with adding the creativity.

Banega’s place looks certain given the lack of options remaining in the squad for the position and the Inter Milan midfielder’s good performances under Gerardo Martino.

There will be a degree of pressure on the 28-year-old in Mérida in the absence of Messi, whom he normally enjoys such a good chemistry with, and the slightly less mobile Lucas Pratto ahead of him in the number nine role.

What is less clear is who Bauza will select on the right of the three in his 4-2-3-1 formation.

Érik Lamela was selected in Argentina’s final training session but Nicolás Gaitán performed well in the position at the Copa América when Messi missed the opening matches through injury.

The only other expected change to the starting eleven is at left-back where Marcos Rojo returns from suspension and looks likely to replace Emmanuel Más.

It is a very long time since Argentina didn’t have Messi, Agüero or Higuaín available but there can be no excuses on Tuesday. Victory over Uruguay was a fourth consecutive win in World Cup qualification and sent La Albiceleste top of the league but with competition so intense, there is no room for slip-ups.

Possible starting XI: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolás Otamendi, Ramiro Funes Mori, Marcos Rojo; Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia; Érik Lamela, Éver Banega, Ángel Di María; Lucas Pratto


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