Enzo Pérez a slight doubt but otherwise Argentina prepare for France with no changes


The bar was low but there was no question that the first 45 minutes against Nigeria was the best half of football that Argentina have managed in Russia and so it is little surprise that Jorge Sampaoli is set to name an unchanged side for Saturday’s showdown with France.

Enzo Pérez has worked separately in Bronitsky due to some discomfort in his left thigh but is expected to be fit.

Despite a repeat of the starting eleven that defeated Nigeria looking probable, Sampaoli has looked at the option of replacing Gonzalo Higuaín with Cristian Pavón and moving Lionel Messi more centrally to operate as a false nine.

The chances of this however would appear very slim given Pavón is yet to start a game in Russia and the only other alternative in the event that Enzo Pérez isn’t fit looks to be starting Lucas Biglia alongside Javier Mascherano.

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Whether Jorge Sampaoli is still selecting the team is subject to debate but certainly since the meeting after the defeat to Croatia, Argentina are looking more like the side that reached the final four years ago than one set up by Sampaoli.

Javier Mascherano endured one of his worst displays in an Argentina shirt against Nigeria but will anchor the midfield once more with Enzo Pérez likely to continue and Ever Banega looking to provide the creativity once more.

Banega’s role of finding Lionel Messi will be as important as ever against a talented French side and completing the attack will be the familiar and much criticised Gonzalo Higuaín and Angel Di María.

Match winner Marcos Rojo starts alongside Nicolás Otamendi in central defence, Gabriel Mercado and Nicolás Tagliafico completing the traditional back four and Franco Armani continuing after his successful debut in goal.

While not looking ahead to a potential quarter final against Portugal or Uruguay, six Argentina players are one yellow card away from suspension and so Nicolás Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado, Marcos Acuña, Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi must all tread carefully.

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