Argentina continue their preparations ahead of an important 2020, packed with World Cup qualifiers and another Copa América, with friendlies against Germany and Ecuador this week and Lionel Scaloni is looking to cement his squad and ideas.
Without Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and all players from Boca Juniors and River Plate, opportunities have arisen for a few fringe players to impress and that begins in Dortmund on Wednesday.
Argentina face old rivals Germany at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion before heading to Alicante to play Ecuador and with only one more international break before the end of the year, Lionel Scaloni is running out of chances to experiment while the pressure is off.
Lautaro Martínez struck a sensational hat-trick in the win over Mexico last time out and the Inter striker will again be the focal point of the Argentina attack against Germany. Without the likes of Messi or Agüero, with whom Martínez formed a promising pairing with at the Copa América, Scaloni looks to Paulo Dybala to link up with the 22-year-old hitman.
“Dybala and Lautaro are the future of the Argentina national team,” Scaloni told the press after confirming the eleven that will start against Germany.
“We think that they will be part of the team for many years. During this period of change and restructuring, they are the ones to carry the flag.”
Coach Lionel Scaloni will have been an eager spectator as both scored in Juventus’ 2-1 win over Inter in the weekend Derby d’Italia and the 41-year-old added, “We hope that tomorrow, playing together, they can repeat a good performance.”
There are certainly few doubts over the quality of that attack and the pairing of Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo de Paul in midfield had begun to show signs of a solid foundation.
With Giovani Lo Celso still injured since the last international break, Watford’s Roberto Pereyra gets another chance and Atlético Madrid’s Ángel Correa returns to the selección.
Correa may only ever be the option from the bench that he has been at club level and Pereyra can consider himself fortunate given Watford’s woeful form but as usual Argentina’s real problems lie in defence.
Nicolás Tagliafico has proved himself to be a more than able left-back and solved any issues that the position once created yet looking across the back four it is clear that Germany will fancy their chances to get at goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín, number one in the absence of River Plate’s Franco Armani and Boca Juniors’ Esteban Andrada.
Despite the fresh blood being brought through elsewhere on the pitch, Nicolás Otamendi and Marcos Rojo line up together in central defence while Juan Foyth starts his first game of the season after injury, out of position at right-back. The lack of pace centrally, the propensity from all parties to rush recklessly into challenges and the fact that Foyth has gone from makeshift option to first-choice is a concern for Argentina.
Scaloni admitted that Germany will provide a good benchmark for this squad ahead of next year.
“This is an important match to test the players against a historical rival. For those who are playing it’s a test to see if they are ready to play at this level.
“We think this is the last step to consolidate the group and the ideas we already have,” the Argentina coach explained.
Scaloni referenced those players that both Argentina and Germany do not have available for the friendly but added that in his case, “it’s a good test considering that they are some important players that would have been here.
“Let’s hope that two or three of the new guys can prove that they can be in the national team.”
Argentina starting XI: Agustín Marchesín; Juan Foyth, Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolás Tagliafico; Roberto Pereyra, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, Ángel Correa; Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martínez