Scaloni eager to see in-form Messi in WC qualifiers
Buenos Aires, March 3 (IANS): Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said that he is looking forward to seeing a fit and happy Lionel Messi in the Albiceleste’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil next month.
Messi began the current season slowly for Barcelona after a failed attempt to force a transfer last August. However, the 33-year-old has recaptured his best form in recent weeks and he now has 24 goals and nine assists in 32 matches across all competitions in 2020-21, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Messi is fine and when he is with us he is even better,” Scaloni told reporters on Tuesday.
“Let’s hope he continues in this way.”
While Messi appears to be in peak physical condition, the same cannot be said of several of his Albiceleste teammates.
Among those in danger of missing the upcoming qualifiers are Tottenham playmaker Giovani Lo Celso, Stuttgart forward Nicolas Gonzalez, and Sevilla pair Lucas Ocampos and Marcos Acuna.
Lo Celso and Acuna have torn hamstrings, Ocampos has an ankle problem, and Gonzalez a thigh strain.
Scaloni must also decide whether Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is ready after a long period out with a hamstring tear and a bout of Covid-19.
“I spoke with him a month ago. We know how difficult it is to come back from injury, hopefully, he can pick up the pace. We will decide next week but we know that he is not going to be 100 per cent,” Scaloni said.
The head coach also all but ruled out the possibility of calling up Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, who has not played in almost two months because of a knee injury.
“I spoke to him four days ago. They cannot find the solution to his pain in the lateral ligament and I hope that with the treatment that he is going to receive he can recover as soon as possible,” Scaloni said.
Argentina will host Uruguay in Santiago del Estero on March 26 before facing Brazil at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium four days later.
The two-time World Cup winners are currently second in the 10-team South American zone qualifying standings, two points behind leaders Brazil.