The second quarter-final of the 2019 Copa America will see Venezuela go head to head against Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the Maracana Stadium on Friday night.

The knockout phase of the 2019 Copa America is underway, with hosts Brazil eliminating Paraguay via a penalty shootout in the first quarter-final of the competition. The second contest of the Last Eight stage will see Argentina battle Venezuela, who are yet to taste defeat in this edition of Copa America, in Rio de Janeiro on Friday night.

Venezuela qualified to the quarter-finals by virtue of their second-place finish in Group A. La Vinotinto kicked off the tournament with back to back goalless draws against Peru and Brazil, before beating Bolivia 3-1 to book their place in the knockout rounds. Having been unbeaten in the competition till date, Rafael Dudamel’s men will back themselves to come out on top in their upcoming encounter.

Argentina, on the other hand, have looked far from convincing so far in the Copa America. Having lost their opening fixture to Colombia, La Albiceleste were then held to a draw by Paraguay. But, a 2-0 win against guest nation Qatar in their final group game ensured they finished second in Group B and qualified to the quarter-final stages. Given the expectations from the team, they will be under immense pressure to get a positive result on Friday night.

Team News & Tactics

Venezuela

Venezuela are unbeaten in the competition (Photo by Juliana Flister/Getty Images)

Venezuela are unbeaten in the competition (Photo by Juliana Flister/Getty Images)

Midfielder Arquimedes Figuera has been ruled out of the tournament owing to a ruptured knee ligament. Apart from that, there are no injury concerns for manager Dudamel ahead of the crunch clash against Argentina.

Luis Del Pino Mago returned from suspension in the last game, but is unlikely to get a start with Ronald Hernandez and Roberto Rosales impressing in the full-back slots. Jhon Chancellor is a sure starter at the heart of the defence and is likely to be paired up with Mikel Villanueva, who was rested for the Bolivia game.

Junior Moreno will slot in as the defensive midfielder and will be tasked with shielding the backline. Support will come from 21-year-old Yangel Herrera, while captain Tomas Rincon will take up the third midfield slot and look to provide a box-to-box presence.

Jefferson Savarino is likely to get the nod on the right flank, while the opposite wing is set to be occupied by Darwin Machis, following his match-winning brace against Bolivia. Salomon Rondon will lead the line for La Vinotinto ahead of Josef Martinez, who was also on the scoresheet in their last fixture.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Farinez; Hernandez, Chancellor, Villanueva, Rosales; Savarino, Herrera, Moreno, Rincon, Machis; Rondon

Argentina

Argentina beat Qatar to make it to the quarterfinal (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

Argentina beat Qatar to make it to the quarterfinal (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has chopped and changed his side in every game so far, giving a strong hint as to not quite being aware of his best starting XI. Once again there are likely to be quite a few number of tweaks to the starting XI against Venezuela on Friday night.

Franco Armani has been a constant fixture in goal for La Albiceleste and that is unlikely to change. German Pezzella did not feature against Qatar but is set for a return at the heart of the defence, partnering Nicolas Otamendi.

Nicolas Tagliafico is a certainty at left-back, although the right-back slot remains in question. Renzo Saravia was used in the position in two of Argentina’s three matches, including the win against Qatar. However, Scaloni used Tottenham starlet Juan Foyth in the position during training ahead of the game and could start with him on Friday.

Leandro Paredes has been an ever-present at the base of the midfield for Argentina and Scaloni is unlikely to tinker with that. However, Marcos Acuna is in line for a start in place of Rodrigo De Paul, with Giovani Lo Celso completing the three-man midfield for La Albiceleste.

The Argentine attack will no doubt comprise of captain and superstar Lionel Messi, who is likely to slot in the hole behind the two strikers Sergio Aguero and Lautaro Martinez, both of whom were on the scoresheet in the game against Qatar.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Armani; Foyth, Pezzella, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Lo Celso, Paredes, Acuna; Messi; Aguero, Martinez

Key Stats

  • This will be the 26th meeting between Argentina and Venezuela. The Albiceleste have a clear upper-hand in head-to-head record, having beaten La Vinotinto on 21 occasions, while tasting defeat just twice.
  • The last time these two teams met was earlier this year in March in a friendly encounter. Venezuela emerged comfortable winners on that occasion, beating Argentina 3-1.
  • Argentina have not won in their last three meetings with Venezuela (D2 L1).
  • Venezuela have lost all of their five Copa America clashes against Argentina till date. The last time these two teams met in this competition in 2016, they were beaten 4-1 with Lionel Messi scoring a goal.
  • Venezuela have conceded just one goal so far in this edition’s Copa America and have kept two clean sheets. Only Colombia and Brazil boast of a better defensive record.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Time for Messi to step up (Photo by Bruna Prado/Getty Images)

Time for Messi to step up (Photo by Bruna Prado/Getty Images)

It has been a quiet tournament for Argentine superstar Lionel Messi till date. The 32-year-old attacker hasn’t been at his scintillating best in the Copa America and has managed just a solitary goal in the competition so far, which came in the 1-1 draw against Paraguay.

Messi was very ineffective in the win against Qatar and has struggled to get going, much like most of his teammates in the Copa America. However, if Argentina are to have a chance of progressing further in the competition, they will need their captain to be firing on all cylinders.

Prediction

Venezuela 1-0 Argentina

Venezuela, so far in the competition, have shown great solidity in defence, having managed to stop Brazil during the group stages, managing two clean sheets in three games, while showing their attacking prowess in the win against Bolivia.

Argentina, on the other hand, have been all over the place with the constant changes on match-by-match basis. The win against Qatar will come as a boost, but they were hardly at their best during that clash as well.

Venezuela beat Argentina the last time these two sides met only months ago and given the instability in Lionel Scalon’s side and Venezuela’s overall displays so far, we at The Hard Tackle are backing La Vinotinto to cause one of the biggest upsets of the Copa with a narrow win on Friday.

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