After a disastrous World Cup campaign, Argentina will look to get things back on the right track, when they take on Guatemala in a friendly on Friday night.

Argentina will face off against Central American nation Guatemala at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as they hope to erase the demons of a disappointing summer and kickstart a new era.

La Albiceleste endured a forgettable 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign in Russia, as they were dumped out by eventual champions France as early as the Round of 16 stages. In the aftermath, Argentina let go of manager Jorge Sampaoli, and have brought in Lionel Scaloni as the caretaker manager with Pablo Aimar as his second in command.

With star man Lionel Messi on a hiatus from the national team and a number of senior players not being picked for the upcoming set of friendlies, in many ways it marks a new beginning for the South American giants. And Scaloni will be hoping to rebuild the side and get things in order, with an eye on the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.

Guatemala are going through a rebuilding phase, having only recently returned to action, after their football association was suspended for two years by FIFA due to bribery allegations in 2016. The ban was lifted in May earlier this year, following which the Central Americans played two friendlies against Cuba last month, winning both of them.

Led by manager Walter Claveri, the minnows will be hoping to leave a mark against their superior opponents, as they look to establish themselves after a two-year hiatus.

Team News & Tactics

Argentina

Star attacker Lionel Messi isn’t part of the team picked by Scaloni, with the Barcelona man expected to take a break from international duties. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Otamendi are other notable absentees for the Albiceleste.

No Messi for Argentina's upcoming fixtures (Photo courtesy - Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

No Messi for Argentina’s upcoming fixtures (Photo courtesy – Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

There are as many as thirteen uncapped players in the squad picked by the interim manager that includes names like Giovanni Simeone, Geronimo Rulli, Franco Cervi. Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi has been handed a call-up after being snubbed for the World Cup. Lautaro Martinez has been ruled out with a calf injury.

Juventus star Paulo Dybala is unlikely to feature for La Albiceleste against Guatemala, having joined up late with the rest of the squad due to some off the pitch problems.

Scaloni is expected to set his team out in a 4-3-3 setup against the Central American nation. Despite Sergio Romero’s selection, the experienced goalkeeper is unlikely to feature, having recently recovered from an injury, which would mean Rulli could be handed his first international cap against Guatemala.

Fabricio Bustos is likely to start as the right-back, with newly appointed captain Nicolas Tagliafico set to feature on the left side. Fiorentina’s German Pezzella should partner up with Ramiro Funes Mori in the heart of the defence.

Former AS Roma midfielder Leandro Paredes is likely to anchor the midfield for the South American nation. He is likely to be paired up with PSG’s budding star Giovani Lo Celso, who is currently out on loan at Real Betis, while the third slot in the middle is set to be taken up by the 19-year old Exequiel Palacios.

Cristian Pavon should start out on the right-flank, having scored twice in four games already this season for Boca Juniors, with River Plate’s Gonzalo Martinez likely to be stationed on the opposite wing. With main man Icardi carrying a knock and Lautaro Martinez absent, Simeone is line to spearhead the attack.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Rulli; Bustos, Pezzella, Funes Mori, Tagliafico; Lo Celso, Paredes, Palacios; Pavon, Simeone, Martinez;

Guatemala

Claveri’s squad for the upcoming fixtures contains a mix of players that were involved in the national team setup before the two-year ban and a number of new faces trying to make an impression on the big stage.

New York Red Bulls defender Allen Yanes comes into the squad for the first time after impressing in the MLS, along with Xelaju midfielder Kevin Ruiz and Petapa’s Prins Lopez. Jose Alberto Marquez and Angel Cabrera failed to make the cut.

The manager prefers the 4-3-3 formation and is unlikely to change the way his team sets up, despite facing a superior opposition like Argentina. Captain Paulo César Motta is a definite starter in the goal for the Central Americans, while the back four is likely to comprise of Cristian Jimenez and Allen Yanes as the full-backs with Elias Vasquez and Hector Moreira as the centre-halves.

Rodrigo Saravia will slot in the holding midfield position for La Bicolor. Support will be offered in the middle of the park by Jose Manuel Contreras and the 23-year old Frank de Leon, who will be tasked with conducting play in the final third of the pitch.

Kevin Norales and Jorge Vargas should start out on the right and left-flanks respectively to provide the cutting edge in the attacking third. The 20-year old Jose Martinez is likely to lead the line ahead of Edi Danilo Guerra.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Motta; Jimenez, Vasquez, Moreira, Yanes; Contreras, Saravia, de Leon; Norales, Martinez, Vargas;

Key Stats

  • Argentina have faced Guatemala on two occasions previously and have come out on top in one game, with the other ending in a draw.
  • The latest meeting between the two nations came in 2013, which Argentina won 4-0 with Lionel Messi bagging a hat-trick.
  • Guatemala haven’t scored a single goal against the South American heavyweights.
  • The Central American nation have kept a clean sheet in both their friendly fixtures since returning to action last month.

Player to watch

Giovanni Simeone (Argentina)

Simeone set for his international bow (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Simeone set for his international bow (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

The absence of Messi, Aguero, Higuain from the squad and Icardi’s fitness has paved the way for the young Giovanni Simeone to follow in his father Diego’s footsteps and make his debut for Argentina against Guatemala.

The 23-year old Fiorentina striker had scored 14 times and set up 5 more in 38 Serie A appearances in the 2017-18 campaign and has scored and assisted a goal apiece in two games in the new season. A lethal finisher with natural goal-scoring instincts, Simeone is held in high regards in Europe and has been tipped for a bright future. He will be keen on kicking off his international career with a goal or two.

Prediction

Argentina 4-1 Guatemala

Guatemala, having only recently made a comeback after a two-year layoff, may have won their previous two fixtures, but are very much likely to struggle against a team as loaded with quality as Argentina.

La Albiceleste might be coming into the game on the back of a turbulent summer, with a lot of changes happening in the national team setup. However, the gulf of class between them and their opponents is too vast. And we at The Hard Tackle expect Scaloni’s men to romp home to a resounding victory in Los Angeles.

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