Argentina’s prospective new dawn under Lionel Scaloni will be handed a boost when they return to international duty as they welcome back the prodigal son Lionel Messi.
The Barcelona man has not played for his country since their elimination from the 2018 World Cup in Russia after eventual champions France saw them off in a 4-3 thriller.
However, with his sensational club form suggesting that the 31-year-old is back to his best, he will hand his side a significant advantage when they face Venezuela at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid .
Rafael Dudamel will be looking to give his side a boost ahead of their Copa America campaign later in the year and knows that an upset against one of the favourites would boost their confidence and standing ahead of the tournament.
|Game||Argentina vs Venezuela|
|Date||Friday, March 22|
|Time||8:00pm GMT / 4:00pm ET|
|Stream (US)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial) .
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|beIN SPORTS||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be broadcast or livestreamed.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Marchesín, Armani, Andrada, Musso|
|Defenders||Mercado, Acuna, Tagliafico, Pezzella, Kannemann, Saravia, Foyth, Lisandro Martinez, Montiel|
|Midfielders||Di Maria, Pereyra, Lo Celso, Paredes, Lazani, De Paul, Rodriguez, Blanco, Marcone, Zaracho|
|Forwards||Messi, Dybala, Correa, Lautaro Martinez, Benedetto, Gonzalo Martinez, Suarez|
Lionel Messi’s return to the international fold remains the headline for Argentina’s otherwise rather inexperienced squad, with the Barcelona man having more caps combined than every other attacker and midfielder combined, save for Angel Di Maria.
Lionel Scaloni’s decision to leave Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero out of the running points to a prospective changing of the guard across the team, with 13 members of their World Cup preliminary squad not called up since the exit in Russia.
Argentina starting XI: Armani; Montiel, Foyth, Mercado, Martinez, Tagliafico, Lo Celso, Paredes, Messi, L. Martinez, G. Martinez
|Defenders||Rosales, Gonzales, Chancellor, Mago, Osorio, Hernandez, Ferraresi, Villanueva|
|Midfielders||Rincon, Seijas, Figuera, Murillo, Machis, Juanpi, Moreno, Herrera, Cordova, Soteldo|
|Forwards||Rondon, Martinez, Aristeguieta, Cadiz, Hurtado|
With one eye likely turned to the Copa America later this year, where they will face off with hosts Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, Rafael Dudamel will likely look to firm up his selections in his final international break beforehand .
With no Wilker Angel or Bernardo Anor in contention after missing out however, there will at least be changes from the side who previously drew with Iran in November.
Potential Venezuela starting XI: Farinez; Hernandez, Rosales, Chancellor, Osorio; Herrera, Rincon, Moreno, Cordova, Machis; Martinez.
Betting & Match Odds
Argentina are the odds-on favourites at 2/7 to prevail with bet365 , while a draw is available at 4/1. A win for Venezuela is priced at 10/1.
With only one defeat to their name since their eviction at the hands of France from last year’s World Cup in Russia, Argentina look to be back on track under Lionel Scaloni.
The 40-year-old took charge following their elimination after his nation failed to emulate their run to the final achieved at Brazil 2014, prompting the departure of manager Jorge Sampaoli.
Save for a narrow loss to Brazil, La Albiceleste have gone unbeaten since, with victories over Guatemala, Iraq and a double against Mexico.
If there is any concerns about Scaloni’s tenure so far, it is that his side have been unable to overcome their bigger rivals in his short period in charge, including the Selecao and a draw with Colombia.
He will hope to put any issues to bed however with an emphatic result against Venezuela in Madrid – and he is bolstered by the return of arguably the greatest player in world football to boot.
After sitting out the rest of 2018 in apparent self-exile following his performances in Russia, Lionel Messi is back to his best at club level, firing Barcelona to what looks to be assured domestic success in La Liga as well as potential European glory in the Champions League.
In a squad still filled with relatively inexperienced international players, as Scaloni opts to prune many of his veteran players, the 31-year-old brings a wealth of skill and leadership that could just be the tonic needed on the field.
Much like his opposite number, Venezuela boss Rafael Dudamel will have an eye on the Copa America, particularly with his nation draw in the arguable group of death, Group A.
They will tangle with hosts Brazil as well as last year’s World Cup finalists Peru and Bolivia to boot.
One player likely to make the bench who could prove decisive is Newcastle United striker Salomon Rondon, whose promising domestic form has helped haul his side free of near-certain relegation.