SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sporting Alert – Lionel Messi starts on the bench for Argentina in tonight’s Copa America Group D clash with Chile at Levi’s Stadium.
The Barcelona forward has been battling with his fitness in the build up to the tournament, after he sustained a back injury during Argentina’s 1-0 Copa America warmup win over Honduras on May 28.
— FS1 (@FS1) June 7, 2016
With Messi only available as a substitute for this game, Nicolás Gaitan gets the nod in the starting XI for Argentina in the attacking line and will play with Gonzalo Higuaín and Angel Di María up front.
Ramiro Funes Mori, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and Gabriel Mercado are the back four with Javier Mascherano, Augusto Fernández and Ever Banega starting in the middle.
Meanwhile, Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez will lead the front line for Chile alongside Eduardo Vargas, with Bayern Munich hard hitting Arturo Vidal also starting in midfield
Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo will start in goal for the defending champions, while Gary Medel, Marcelo Díaz and Mauricio Isla also in the lineup.
Manchester City free scoring Sergio Aguero is also a part of a very strong Argentina bench next to Messi, with Ezequiel Lavezzi, Erik Lamela, Lucas Biglia and Javier Pastore all available as well.
Tonight’s game is a rematch of the 2015 final, which was won by Chile on penalties, after the two sides finished 0-0 in regulation and extra-time.
Argentina, the pre-tournament favourites, have been preparing for what is expected to be a tight opening encounter, as they seek to return the favour to their fellow South American rivals and start this year’s tournament on a positive note.
“We know the importance of the first meeting,” said Atletico Madrid and La Albiceleste’s Fernandez, who also added: “but also the other two will be crucial.
“Chile are a very dynamic rival and we have to be solid, strong defensively and in attack.”
— FS1 (@FS1) June 7, 2016
These two sides also met in a World Cup Qualifying game on Mar 24 and Argentina came away with a 2-1 victory.
The 2014 World Cup beaten finalist has also won three of the past five head-to-head meetings against Chile, while Gerardo Martino’s side have lost just once in nine outings since going down at last year’s Copa America.
Argentina: Sergio Romero, Ramiro Funes Mori, Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Gabriel Mercado, Javier Mascherano, Augusto Fernández, Ever Banega, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di María, Nicolas Gaitan. Subs: Matias Kranevitter, Facundo Roncaglia, Lucas Biglia, Nahuel Guzmán, Mariano Andujar, Victor Cuesta, Erik Lamela, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Javier Pastore.
Chile: Claudio Bravo, Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medel, Eugenio Mena, Mauricio Isla, Marcelo Díaz, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aránguiz, Eduardo Vargas, Jean Beauséjour, Alexis Sanchez. Subs: Enzo Roco, Edson Puch, Johnny Herrera, Pablo Hernandez, Mauricio Pinilla, Cristopher Toselli, Erick Pulgar, Mark Gonzalez, Gato Silva, Nicolas Castillo, Jose Fuenzalida, Fabian Orellana.