Bolivia v Argentina preview: La Albiceleste face tough task in La Paz (starting XIs)

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If Argentina’s trip to La Paz wasn’t hard enough already, the news that Lionel Messi will be suspended has only increased that and left La Albicelete’s World Cup qualification looking very uncertain.

Despite Edgardo Bauza’s appraisal, his side were woeful in Thursday’s win over Chile and while the three points sent Argentina up to third, only three points separate Uruguay in second and Chile in sixth.

Argentina have been far from convincing throughout the qualification process but most worrying is that with Lionel Messi, La Albiceleste have won four and lost one; without their captain, Argentina have won only once, drawn four and lost two.

Additionally, the record at the Estadio Hernando Siles in the altitude of La Paz is far from convincing.

The humbling 6-1 defeat in 2009 under Diego Maradona still lives long in the memory but going back to the first ever encounter in La Paz in 1957 when El Verde picked up a 2-0 win, Bolivia have proved tough opponents on their own patch.

The two sides have met eleven times in Bolivia (nine in World Cup qualifiers and twice in Copa Américas) and the home side have won on six occasions with Argentina only winning three, the last time in 2005.

Argentina naturally dominate the head-to-head overall and have won their last four meetings with an aggregate score of 14-0 but Bolivia outside La Paz is a completely different proposition. Angel Hoyos’ side losing to Colombia last Thursday set a new record for the most away matches in World Cup qualifying without victory but crucially the coach opted to rest a number of his first team players, in preparation for the visit of Argentina.

In Messi’s absence, Ángel Correa will start in support of lone striker Lucas Pratto but suspensions and injury have forced several other changes to the side that beat Chile. Enzo Pérez and Guido Pérez start in an unfamiliar midfield with Éver Banega brought back into the starting eleven to try and provide some creativity.

Bolivia possible XI: Carlos Lampe; Ronald Raldes, Cristian Coimbra, José Sagredo, Mario Cuéllar; Omar Morales, Alejandro Meleán, Leonel Justiniano, Juan Pablo Aponte; Danny Bejarano, Marcelo Martins Moreno

Bauza has already acknowledged Bolivia’s strengths out wide and will look to sit back and conserve energy ahead of a taxing final 20 minutes.

The under-fire coach’s vision of Messi lifting the World Cup in Russia looks a long way off now and his side must first win and ensure qualification without their inspirational captain.

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