Sampaoli tests new XI ahead of Spain friendly & Messi could return

Muscle fatigue ruled Lionel Messi out of Argentina’s victory over Italy on Friday night but the Barcelona star participated in training on Sunday ahead of a possible role in Tuesday’s friendly against Spain.

Not yet 100%, no risks will be taken with Messi but the forward worked with trainer Jorge Desio before joining the group in Madrid and while any final decision will be made late, Jorge Sampaoli is preparing for at least 45 minutes from his captain.

With Sergio Agüero already ruled out, Ángel Di María picking up an injury against Italy and Manuel Lanzini and Leandro Paredes both doubts after picking up knee and shoulder injuries respectively, Sampaoli will be hoping Messi is not watching from the stands once again.

Messi’s possible return would be one of a few other changes as Sampaoli wishes to take a closer look at some of his squad.

Sergio Romero reclaims his spot in goal despite Willy Caballero’s impressive show in Manchester, Marcos Rojo is expected to start ahead of Federico Fazio (having not played for Argentina since defeat to Bolivia in March 2017), Javier Mascherano returns instead of Lucas Biglia and Éver Banega starts with Paredes likely missing.

Gonzalo Higuaín is expected to keep his place as the side’s number nine with Racing Club youngster Lautaro Martínez waiting for his debut and Cristian Pavón may come into the attack with Lanzini possibly ruled out.

The only other doubt in the line-up is whether Sampaoli gives Fabricio Bustos and Nicolás Tagliafico another chance to impress in the full-back positions or he opts to give Gabriel Mercado and Marcos Acuña an opportunity.

Argentina possible XI: Sergio Romero; Fabricio Bustos, Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolás Tagliafico; Giovani Lo Celso, Javier Mascherano, Éver Banega; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Cristian Pavón

How Messi reacts to training will dictate whether he plays any role against Spain and although Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba confidently stated that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner would play, Argentina’s medical team seems less confident.

Regardless, Sampaoli will want to see a number of the squad that are yet to feature before making his mind up regarding his World Cup squad. Monday’s training session may give further clues as to what Argentina plan to do.


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