Lionel Scaloni has confirmed Lionel Messi will definitely play a part in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
The rival nations meet for the first time since this year’s Copa America final, which Argentina won 1-0, when they face off in San Juan on Tuesday.
Both teams have identical records since that final, each winning five of their six qualifiers. A clash between the pair in Sao Paulo in September was suspended due to coronavirus restrictions relating to Argentina’s England-based players.
Already-qualified Brazil sit top of the CONMEBOL standings on 34 points, six clear of Scaloni’s team, who defeated Uruguay on Friday.
Given the 12-point gap between Argentina and fifth-placed Colombia, who occupy the play-off spot, a win would all but guarantee their place in Qatar next year. Dropped points for two of Chile, versus Ecuador, Colombia, against Paraguay, and Uruguay, in Bolivia, would make the picture clearer still.
Messi, whose selection in Argentina’s squad “did not make sense” – according to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo – due to the 34-year-old’s recent injury issues, came on as a 76th-minute substitute in the win over Uruguay.
Scaloni explained he had used Messi sparingly in order to keep him in top condition for Tuesday’s clash with Brazil, and the coach confirmed in his pre-match news conference the former Barcelona superstar would certainly play, albeit he did not reveal if he would start.