Friday International Friendly Match – Argentina vs Italy

March 23rd 2018 19:45 – Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Recent Form (All competitions)

Argentina: LDDDW

Italy: WDWLD

Argentina continue their World Cup preparations this week against an Italian side missing their first World Cup in 50 years. Both teams suffered greatly during their respective qualifying campaigns, the La Albiceleste finished third in the South American qualifying group, a massive 13 points behind group winners Brazil.

The Argentine squad, despite its riches up front, appears wholly imbalanced. Of the three goalkeepers only one, Nahuel Guzman, is a regular but still plays in his native Argentina, whilst the other two, Sergio Romero of Manchester United and Willy Caballero of Chelsea hardly feature for their clubs. The defence and midfield look solid if unspectacular, with Federico Fazio of Roma and Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City the only two who play consistently for a top-four side in one of Europe’s five biggest leagues. Lucas Biglia of AC Milan, Ever Banega of Sevilla and Angel Di Maria of PSG are in the same position amongst the midfield selections.

Yet their forward line is arguably the best anyone in the world can offer, Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus, Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is an outstanding trio. So much so that Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, can leave out Internazionale striker Mauro Icardi, a perennial contender for top scorer in Italy’s Serie A who scored four goals in his last league game after returning from injury. They surely go to Russia with thoughts of winning the tournament for the first time since 1986.

The Azzurri on the other hand will be watching the World Cup from the comfort of their own homes after missing out on qualification for the first time since 1958. A woeful campaign which saw draws against Macedonia and a scrappy 1-0 at home to Israel meant that the four-time World Cup winners entered a play-off with Sweden.

The Azzurri lost the away fixture 1-0 and failed to score in the home leg after a 0-0 draw, meaning a first World Cup without an Italian presence in over a generation. Head Coach Gian Piero Ventura was removed from his position and replaced by current caretaker coach Luigi Di Biagio, while a search for a permanent replacement continues.

The Italian squad has a more balanced look. Older heads like Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus (after reversing his decision to retire from International football) along with Leonardo Bonucci of AC Milan and Marco Parolo of Lazio have been mixed with some bright exciting talent such as Bryan Cristante of Atalanta and Federico Chiesa of Fiorentina. But this is far from the vintage crop of Italians we have seen in past years, and without a permanent Head Coach it is hard to come to any conclusions about the future direction of the squad.

Prediction: It’s hard to resist that magnificent attacking line up for Argentina. As a result, the Argentina win with both sides to score looks like the choice bet at 4/1 with Betfair.

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