Edgardo Bauza’s tenure as Argentina coach got off to a fine start in Mendoza last Thursday with victory over Uruguay but it came at a price and El Patón must now take his side to Mérida looking for another three points without Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala.
Venezuela are yet to win in this World Cup qualification campaign and so it is top against bottom of the highly competitive CONMEBOL group but La Vinotinto will have their eyes on an upset having defeated Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina on the road to the 2014 World Cup and looking at an Albiceleste starting eleven missing many of its major attacking threats.
There were certainly signs of early promise for Bauza’s Argentina in the opening 45 minutes against Uruguay with El Patón’s preferred 4-2-3-1 and the introduction of Paulo Dybala in tandem with Lionel Messi. However, the rash sending off of the young Juventus forward forced Argentina into change and his subsequent suspension along with the injury to Lionel Messi will force Bauza into another reshuffle on Tuesday evening.
“Even with Messi not in the team, the idea will remain the same and we will try and be the protagonists,” Bauza said in his pre-match press conference.
The new coach confirmed his starting line-up and it will be Tottenham Hotspur’s Érik Lamela tasked with filling the sizeable shoes of the best player in the world on the right of his attacking three.
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“The idea is to give Lamela freedom,” explained El Patón.
“He is a player that can get a goal and I saw him as the best option. Messi is a player that can unbalance a team the most and although he won’t be there, we have other very good players.”
Lamela’s role coming in off the right to provide both a goal threat and a creative spark will mirror that of Messi but equally the former River Plate youngster has displayed a much improved defensive workrate while with Spurs. Bauza, ever the pragmatist, demands that from his players and will be confident that Lamela can adhere to his responsibilities when Argentina are not in possession as much as when they are in attack.
Lucas Pratto’s continuation as Bauza’s number nine displays this approach with the Atlético Mineiro showing his intelligence and willingness to work for the team before his substitution against Uruguay. The 28-year-old is something of an archetypal Bauza centre-forward and in Mérida, Pratto will once more harrass the Venezuelan defence and look to bring Lamela, Banega and Di María into play.
The only other changes to the side that won in Mendoza are Éver Banega reclaiming a starting role and Marcos Rojo returning from suspension to replace Emmanuel Más.
Banega must bring his optimum level to the Estadio Metropolitano de Mérida with so many of the natural creators missing. The Inter Milan midfielder’s critics still point to matches where the 28-year-old drifts to the periphery but wearing the number ten shirt and operating as the central hub of Argentina’s attack that is not an option.
Edgardo Bauza is aware of the threat of Venezuela despite their position in World Cup qualification: “The important thing was to win the first match but it will be different against Venezuela. I know their coach, he looks for intensity in his teams so we’ll have to watch out.
“I see a very committed and eager team that has five or six players who play at a high level. We will have to be careful as Venezuela are not the team they were ten years ago.”
La Vinotinto lost 2-0 to Colombia in Barranquilla on Thursday and remain without a win from seven matches but coach Rafael Dudamel was defiant in his message on the Venezuelan FA’s official website.
“We will recover from this blow. We will continue as we said at the beginning; competing, fighting point to point, always standing, always with dignity, always with that competitive nature that characterises the Venezuelan footballer.
“We know the quality rival that we will receive at home, but we will never surrender.”
The former goalkeeper has also been forced into changes following the red cards to Wilker Ángel and Rolf Feltscher and the accumulated yellow cards of defensive midfielder Arquímedes Figuera.
Venezuela starting XI: Daniel Hernández; Roberto Rosales, José Manuel Velázquez, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Mikel Villanueva; Juan Añor, Tomás Rincón, Yangel Herrera, Adalberto Peñaranda; Josef Martínez, Salomón Rondón
The two sides met less than three months ago at the quarter finals of the Copa América with Argentina running out comfortable 4-1 winners and while historically it is a fixture that La Albiceleste have dominated, Venezuela did win their last World Cup qualifier on home soil.
Fernando Amorebieta headed the only goal of the game back in 2011 as Alejandro Sabella’s side made a faltering start to qualification.
La Vinotinto will no doubt use this as inspiration on Tuesday evening but it is a sole victory from 20 meetings and Edgardo Buaza will be determined that it remains the only one.