Argentina host Chile in their South American leg of 2018 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers a the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires on Thursday evening.
The hosts are in a crisis situation as they are sitting a spot behind the automatic qualifying spots (top-four) for Russia. Having won only five of their 12 games, Edgardo Bauza's side are in danger of slipping further if they stumble against their familiar foes, who are placed fourth, tonight. On the other hand, Chile have remained unbeaten in their last five outings, which includes a couple of wins in their last three World Cup qualifying matches.
After a drama-filled 2016, in which Argentina saw their skipper Lionel Messi retire and then come back to play for the national team, fans in the South American country will be hoping for smooth sailing in the new season. A win against Chile, who defeated them in the finals of last two editions of Copa America, might just be the right way to do so.
With first-choice striker Paulo Dybala reportedly ruled out due to injury, Bauza will be keen on giving the latter a chance but Manchester City's Sergio Aguero remains favourite to make it back to the playing XI after missing the last two qualifying games.
The onus will once again be on Lionel Messi to deliver at home and he should find able support from Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain. Bauza will also miss the strong presence of Pablo Zabaleta in the back and he will be hoping Sevilla's Gabriel Mercado delivers the goods.
On the other hand, Chile, who are high on confidence after crusing second-placed Uruguay 3-1 last November, will also miss their go-to-man Arturo Vidal along with midfielder Marcelo Diaz.
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Playing XI: Romero; Mas, Mori, Otamendi, Mercado; Biglia, Mascherano; Di Maria, Aguero, Messi; Higuain
Playing XI: Bravo; Isla, Medel, Jara, Beausejour; Hernandez, Diaz, Torrejon;Sanchez, Vargas, Roco