Lucas Pratto started Argentina’s previous two World Cup qualifiers as Edgardo Bauza’s number nine but the returns of Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergio Agüero to the squad have increased the competition and the 58-year-old coach has all but confirmed that Juventus’ record signing will get the nod against Peru on Thursday evening.
The subject of much criticism in an Argentina shirt after a string of high-profile misses, Higuaín has once again displayed his goalscoring abilities in Italy.
Seven goals in six starts now for Juventus have the 28-year-old back among the leading scorers in Serie A and few would bet against him being crowned the capocannoniere again.
Despite the injury to Lionel Messi, Bauza has more options for these forthcoming qualifiers in the role of number nine and speaking to Argentine television channel TyC, El Patón said: “If Higuaín is OK, he’s going to be the number nine.”
It was always more than likely that Lucas Pratto or Lucas Alario would drop back to the bench with the inclusions of Higuaín and Agüero, and with the squad gathering in Lima ahead of Thursday’s match provided the Juventus striker has not picked up a knock since their win over Empoli on Sunday, he will start.
This doesn’t mean that there is no place for Agüero though as Bauza is likely to utilise his preferred 4-2-3-1 and he believes the Manchester City forward can play in a slightly more withdrawn role.
“Pulled back slightly, he [Agüero] could have a great game,” explained Bauza.
The bigger question that remains is, who replaces Messi?
“In place of Messi could play Dybala or Angel Correa but we will see how they are when they arrive to decide that.”
With Bauza’s eleven for Peru taking shape the injuries to Lucas Biglia and Augusto Fernández leave an opportunity in central midfield alongside Javier Mascherano. The first choice for this it would seem will be Matías Kranevitter.
“I will see how Kranevitter is to decide if he starts with Mascherano in the middle. Kranevitter isn’t the same as Biglia, but from a tactical standpoint is similar. Peru attacks with a lot of players so Argentina have to be well organised.”