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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Argentina, missing Lionel Messi and Manchester City pair, patch up for World Cup qualifier against Paraguay

An injury to Lionel Messi and suspensions of defenders have created some thinking about Argentina’s lineup for manager Edgardo Bauza ahead of Tuesday night’s 2018 World Cup qualifier at home to Paraguay in Cordoba.
Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza must negotiate the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Paraguay on Tuesday night without Lionel Messi. Alejandro Pagni / AFP
Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza must negotiate the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Paraguay on Tuesday night without Lionel Messi. Alejandro Pagni / AFP

An injury to Lionel Messi and suspensions of defenders have created some thinking about Argentina’s line-up for manager Edgardo Bauza ahead of Tuesday night’s 2018 World Cup qualifier at home to Paraguay in Cordoba.

Messi, who missed the 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru with a groin injury that had his side drop from top of the South American qualifying group to fifth, looks set to return for his club Barcelona at the weekend.

Bauza is hoping the five time Ballon d’Or winner stays healthy in the next month before they have to travel to Belo Horizonte to face arch-rivals Brazil on November 10.

Nicolas Gaitan will stand in for Messi on the right side of the attack against Paraguay in place of Paulo Dybala, who started last week’s draw with Peru in Lima, as he seeks better balance in his team.

“Gaitan covers more ground,” Bauza said on Monday. “Dybala was not able to show his full potential playing on the right. Nico can help with the ball winning and is aggressive going forward.

“And we believe (Ever) Banega can accompany (Javier) Mascherano and carry the team forward better.”

Bauza, however, has more concerns with his defenders with Manchester City duo Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta and Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori all suspended, leaving only Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo in a revamped back line. Martin Demichelis will play in central defence.

City striker Sergio Aguero has recovered from a calf niggle that forced his early second-half substitution in Lima and will start again behind Gonzalo Higuain in attack.

Bauza’s side had led the South American group following their 1-0 win over Uruguay on September 1 until Messi’s injury. They are now fifth, with the top four qualifying for Russia while the fifth-placed team face an intercontinental playoff.

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