Argentina will clash against Mexico in the first of two consecutive friendlies between the two nations at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes.
Argentina, sans Lionel Messi, will be taking on a Mexico side led by caretaker manager Ricardo Ferretti in Cordoba, in their penultimate fixture of the year 2018.
Since the disappointment of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Argentina have been a team in transition, under caretaker manager Lionel Scaloni. Key figures like Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain continue to be absent from the squad, as Scaloni looks to usher in a new era for La Albiceleste, ahead of next summer’s Copa America.
Argentina have lost just one of their four games since their Round of 16 defeat to France in Russia (W2, D1) – a narrow 1-0 defeat to Brazil during the last international break. However, their two victories during this period came against Guatemala and Iraq. And Scaloni will be hoping that his team steps up against a tougher opposition and picks up a win on Friday night.
Just like their opponents, Mexico too are a team in flux. Following the departure of Juan Carlos Osorio from the managerial position after the World Cup, El Tri are being led by interim boss Ricardo Ferretti. Under the caretaker manager, Mexico too have cast aside a number of established players like Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez, Hector Moreno, in order to give younger prospects a go.
Since their defeat to Brazil in Russia, Mexico have lost three of their four matches, winning just one time. Their latest fixture ended in a 1-0 defeat against another South American heavyweights Chile in October. And Ferretti will be aiming to put that result behind and pick up a victory when he takes his team south of the border this week.
Tottenham Hotspur star Erik Lamela returned to the squad for the upcoming friendlies against Mexico along with defender Emanuel Mammana. Rodrigo Battaglia has been ruled out with a knee injury, while Nicolas Otamendi and Eduardo Salvio have also been confirmed as unavailable after having been part of the initial squad named by Scaloni.
Promising talent Matias Zaracho and Fiorentina defender German Pezzella are other casualties for the South American giants. There have been first call-ups for Tottenham goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga and Velez midfielder Gaston Gimenez as well.
30-year-old goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin is in line to start between the sticks ahead of seasoned campaigner Sergio Romero. At right-back Renzo Saravia should earn his third international cap, while Nicolas Tagliafico will slot in at left-back. Spurs’ young defender Juan Foyth could be set for his debut for the Albiceleste alongside Ramiro Funes Mori in defence.
Angel Correa has been in good nick for Atletico Madrid and should get the nod on the right side of the midfield against Mexico. Sporting Lisbon’s Marcos Acuna will look to provide the width on the opposite flank for the Argentines, with Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes holding the fort in the middle of the park.
Juventus’ superstar Paulo Dybala is in line to start in attack, alongside up and coming striker Lautaro Martinez, meaning Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi stays on the bench.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Marchesin; Saravia, Foyth, Funes Mori, Tagliafico; Correa, Paredes, Lo Celso, Acuna; Dybala, Martinez;
Ferretti has gone for a balance of youth and experience in his squad for the trip to Argentina. Star attacker Hirving Lozano has had to withdraw from the squad with a knee problem, while Chicharito and Carlos Vela have been omitted from the squad along with a number of other national team veterans. 20-year-old Jesus Angelo has also withdrawn from the team due to an injury.
Ferretti has dallied with a few formations since taking over, but is likely to go into the game with a 4-2-3-1 setup. 28-year-old Hugo Gonzalez should start over Guillermo Ochoa and Jesus Corona in goal. Tigres’ defender Luis Rodriguez is likely to start at right-back, while Jesus Gallardo should get the nod on the left side. Nestor Araujo and Diego Reyes should line up at the centre.
Jesus Duenaz is likely to take up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park ahead of Javier Guemez. He will be in charge of shielding his back four, while his partner, 23-year-old Erick Gutierrez will take up the playmaking duties in the middle of the park.
20-year-old Roberto Alvarado has been in promising form for his club Cruz Azul and could start out on the right flank, while Javier Aquino is in line to feature from the start on the left wing. Victor Guzman should get the nod over Marco Fabian in the No.10 role, while Wolves’ centre-forward Raul Jimenez is set to lead the line.