Spain are preparing to host Argentina and Lionel Messi in a blockbuster friendly on Tuesday that is set to test the resolve of two of the best teams in world football.

Both Spain and Argentina had positive outings last weekend, when they played their international friendlies. Los Albiceleste defeated Italy in a game that did not feature star man and captain, Lionel Messi, while La Furia Roja were held to a 1-1 draw by world champions Germany.

While the fixtures are designed in a way to gain competitive experience against top sides, for Argentina, their clash against Spain will be more than just a friendly. Spain, with their star-studded squad, will have to find ways to stop the one man all teams fear, Lionel Messi, although only if he is fit enough to play.

While Messi’s absence may not be good news for fans hoping to watch him in action, Spanish fans might take delight in the report in addition to how their team is shaping up.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi attends a training session in Madrid on March 25, 2018 ahead of an international friendly football match between Spain and Argentina. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi appeared in Sunday’s training session with Argentina, and could yet take some part against Spain. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

Barring any late surprises from either side, this could be as entertaining as the Germany-Spain game in Dusseldorf. This game represents one of the best matches of this international break and The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Spain

Julen Lopetegui started with a strong lineup against world champions Germany last week and is sure to rotate his team for the Argentina game. The Spain boss also gave his young stars a chance to shine in the last game, and is sure to include a few for this game, but is expected to keep hold of the core of experienced players on the pitch.

The Spaniards, however, are sure to be without David Silva, who left the camp for personal reasons. Lopetegui could bring Lucas Vasquez in his place in the lineup. Marco Asensio could also be given a chance to shine, as he has been one of the exceptional performers for Spain since his debut.

Diego Costa could start up front for Spain against Argentina, with the Atletico Madrid forward only a second-half substitute against Germany. He could take last game’s goalscorer, Rodrigo Moreno’s place in the lineup.

Andres Iniesta could also be starting from the bench as he played against the Germans and the fact he only returned recently from injury could also play a part. The Spaniards, however, have ample cover for their legendary playmaker.

Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Carvajal, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Isco, Saul, Thiago; Vazquez, Costa, Asensio

Team News & Tactics

Argentina

Among the two teams, Jorge Sampaoli’s squad seems like the one severely hit by injuries. Lionel Messi is a major doubt, although recent reports suggest he’s back in training after a minor abductor injury. Even if he’s fit enough to play, Sampaoli would not want to take an unwanted risk with the Argentina captain.

Sergio Aguero is another star name set to miss after it was announced he has not travelled with the squad. This could mean another start for Gonzalo Higuain up front. Who he deploys alongside Higuain in attack though, is another concern for Sampaoli.

Angel di Maria, Manuel Lanzini and Leonardo Paredes are all doubtful with  Lanzini and Paredes picking up knocks against Italy. As a result, Diego Perotti and Cristian Pavon could start upfront alongside Higuain. Meanwhile, Sampaoli should start Javier Mascherano and Lo Celso alongside Ever Banega to try and control the midfield area.

Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3): Romero; Bustos, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Lo Celso, Mascherano, Banega; Pavon, Perotti, Higuain

Key Stats

  • This will be the first-ever international game to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano
  • Argentina and Spain have played 13 times before, mostly in friendlies
  • Argentina in those 13 games have taken six victories to Spain’s five
  • Friday would be the first time both teams face off after Argentina defeated Spain 4-1 in 2010.

Player To Watch

Diego Costa

Spain's forward Diego da Silva Costa eyes the ball during the international friendly football match of Germany vs Spain in Duesseldorf, western Germany, on March 23, 2018, in preparation of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. / AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Diego Costa will be eyeing a permanent place in the Spain Lineup at the World Cup.(Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

The season has been a difficult one for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa. After the whole transfer saga with Chelsea concluded, which included him not playing a competitive game until January the fact that he has started brightly for Atletico suggests he as hit top gear sooner than expected.

Costa might be a formidable striker at club level, but is yet to be a hit for Spain. The game against Argentina could be a good test for the former Chelsea striker, to build some more confidence in his game as he looks to become a regular in this Spanish team.

Prediction

Spain 1-1 Argentina

This game is too close to call on paper, considering the quality on show from both teams. Both teams have good defensive units, and this could be vital in deciding the result. Spain’s attackers are evenly matched in quality with those from Argentina. Messi’s presence is sure to make a difference, but the Spanish defenders are well aware of his threat.

Argentina did not need Messi to beat Italy and could spring a blitz to down Spain as well. But Spain coach, Julen Lopetegui will be keen on continuing a great unbeaten run. Lopetegui is yet to be defeated since becoming the Spain manager, and Argentina will surely be looking to strike a blow in that aspect.

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