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Messi to start on the bench

Argentina captain Lionel Messi may again be restricted to a substitute's role for Tuesday's testing trip to Ecuador where the Albiceleste will look to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track following Friday's home draw with Colombia.

Last Updated: 10/06/13 at 14:59 Post Comment

Lionel Messi: Expected to start on the bench for Argentina

Lionel Messi: Expected to start on the bench for Argentina

With Messi having not played a competitive match in almost a month due to a hamstring problem, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella opted to start the Barcelona ace on the bench against Colombia and only introduced him around the hour mark.

But even the four-time world player of the year was unable to inspire his side to victory as group leaders Argentina dropped two valuable points, and Sabella must now decide whether Messi will be able to start what promises to be another tough match at altitude against third-placed Ecuador.

Even if he does not feature though, Messi insists his side will go out looking for the win.

"I don't know if I'll play against Ecuador. It was a long time with no footballing activity and playing at high altitude is very demanding," Messi told reporters.

"Anyway, even if I don't play, Argentina will go out for the victory as always."

Ecuador have won all six of their qualifying matches in Quito so far, scoring 13 goals and conceding just twice, and have won three of their last four meetings at home with Argentina.

Argentina also failed to pick up a three-point haul in their trip to high altitude against Bolivia in March, and Sabella is anticipating another tough test in Quito, which is 2,800metres above sea level.

"It's not as high as Bolivia, but we are now playing against a team that is high in the standings," said Sabella, who will be without the suspended Gonzalo Higuain and Pablo Zabaleta.

Argentina defender Jose Maria Basanta is used to playing at altitude during his time with Mexican side Monterrey and he has passed on some advice to his team-mates about how best to cope.

"I've played several times under these conditions and physical matters will be the key. We must be well organised on the field, run intelligently and have the ball possession as much as possible," he said.

Boca Juniors defender Clemente Rodriguez, who has been called up to replace Zabaleta, added: "It won't be easy but we'll go out looking for the victory.

Winning in Ecuador would place us almost at the World Cup."

Despite their draw against Colombia, Argentina moved five points clear at the top of the South American qualifying section on Friday night after nearest challengers Ecuador lost 1-0 at Peru.

That was Ecuador's first defeat on Peruvian soil in 36 years but coach Reinaldo Rueda hopes his side can bounce back quickly.

"We lost and it must make us stronger. The final sprint will not be easy at all. It'll be toughly fought," said Rueda, who will be without the suspended Christian Benitez tomorrow.

On the prospect of Messi not featuring Rueda said: "We are facing a very strong team, with great individual talents.

"However, we must see the group as a whole no matter the individual stars they have."

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S

terling needs to be told though that upon entering the Arsenal squad he will re-enact the final scene from Highlander where he will be thrown around a warehouse by cartoon dragons and then be a mere mortal that will only ever spend three to four weeks a season playing football and the rest on the physio's bed. There can be only one.....player available at The Emirates.

rodger's gusset
Arsenal interest in Sterling

T

he game changed in our favour when Carrick came on. We were able to play further up the pitch due to having a player who can give and go with the ball and keep possession. Yet barkley made some runs and Townsend scored a good goal but carrick's inclusion and chiellini's withdrawal made the biggest difference to the flow of the game

ricky villa
Hodgson: Barkley was brilliant

N

o, you've not silenced anyone Andros, i'm afraid. We know you can score a great goal, and it's really handy to have your direct running and willingness to shoot on the bench. But until you can do the other things expected of a winger (beat the man, put a decent cross in, stay wide etc) then you can't expect more than a regular cameo. Wonderful goal though, what a hit! No wonder Buffon wanted the shirt.

badwolf
Townsend: I've silenced critics

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