Argentina will be hoping to extend their unbeaten start to the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers when they take on Colombia at Estadio Metropolitano this midweek.

Even as uncertainty looms over the situation surrounding the Copa America 2021, teams in South America will be involved in the sixth round of fixtures in their FIFA World Cup 2020 qualifying campaign this week. Argentina, who are one of the three teams that are yet to lose in the Qualifiers, will be aiming to maintain that status when they lock horns with Colombia in Barranquilla on Tuesday night.

Argentina are currently second in the standings, with 11 points from five games, four short of leaders Brazil. The Albiceleste head into Tuesday’s game on the back of a 1-1 draw against Chile – their second stalemate in the last three matches – and will be looking to return to winning ways to strengthen their position in the qualifiers and build some momentum ahead of the Copa America.

As for Colombia, things did not look good following a positive start to the qualifiers as heavy defeats to Uruguay and Ecuador towards the end of the last year, threatened to derail their campaign even before it properly started. The results led to the sacking of manager Carlos Queiroz with Reinaldo Rueda taking over in January. Things have begun positively for Los Cafeteros under their new boss as they secured a 3-0 win over Peru last week.

Argentina and Colombia will be facing each other after a gap of almost two years. And ahead of this exciting match-up at Estadio Metropolitano, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Colombia

James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao haven’t been called up by Reinaldo Rueda due to injury and fitness issues while Juan Fernando Quintero has also not made the squad because of travel restrictions from China. In addition, in-form striker Alfredo Morelos is also unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus. In his stead, 21-year-old uncapped forward Jaminton Campaz has been called up.

Colombia set up in a 4-4-2 formation in their first game under Rueda last time out against Peru and should line up in a similar shape at Barranquilla on Tuesday night, with David Ospina manning the goal. He will be shielded by the centre-back partnership of Premier League duo Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez, who will in turn be flanked by Stefan Medina and William Tessilo in the full-back slots.

Mateus Uribe, who was on target in the win over Peru, should hold on to his spot in midfield. The 30-year-old is likely to be partnered with Wilmar Barrios against Argentina, with Gustavo Cuellar dropping out. Both the midfielders will look to sit deep and play behind the ball for the most part, while one of the two could also be tasked with man-marking Lionel Messi.

The chance-creation will mainly come from the wide areas, where Juventus star Juan Cuadrado will carry a major threat down the right-wing with his pace and ability to hit accurate crosses into the box. Luis Diaz, who scored in the win over Peru, should hold on to his spot on the left flank. There is no looking past the Atalanta duo of Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel as the two strikers for the home team.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ospina; Medina, Sanchez, Mina, Tessilo; Cuadrado, Uribe, Barrios, Diaz; Muriel, Zapata

Argentina

Argentina will be without the services of goalkeeper Franco Armani, who has tested positive for coronavirus. There are a couple of boosts though as Gonzalo Montiel is available again after his test came back negative while Nicolas Otamendi is also back in contention after serving out his suspension.

Manager Lionel Scaloni is expected to switch to a 5-3-2 formation against Colombia with Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez set for his second cap in goal for Argentina. In front of him, the three-man defensive unit will comprise Cristian Romero, who has been linked with Manchester United, the returning Otamendi and Lucas Martinez Quarta.

Montiel, who is available for selection, should be preferred over Juan Foyth at right-back while Marcos Acuna slots in on the left. Both full-backs will be encouraged to push forward during the attacking phases given as the system lacks any natural wingers.

PSG midfielder Leandro Paredes will be in charge of shielding the defence in the centre of the park where he will look to break up play and initiate quick transitions. He will be supported by in-demand Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul, who is coming on the back of an impressive season in Serie A. The third slot in the centre should fall to Giovani Lo Celso, who will look to engineer openings in the final third.

Up top, there is no looking past Argentina captain Lionel Messi, who looked in his elements in the draw against Chile. The Barcelona superstar should be partnered with Lautaro Martinez, who has recently popped up on the radars of Liverpool.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Martinez; Montiel, Romero, Otamendi, Quarta, Acuna; De Paul, Paredes, Lo Celso; Messi, Martinez

Key Stats

  • This will be the 40th meeting between Argentina and Colombia. La Albiceleste hold the upper hand in the head-to-head record, having picked up 23 wins compared to just nine victories for Los Cafeteros (D9).
  • Colombia have won just one of their last nine games against Argentina (D3 L5), although it did come in their most recent fixture in 2019.
  • Argentina have kept seven clean sheets in their previous nine meetings with Colombia in all competitions.
  • Argentina are currently on a 12-game unbeaten run (W7 D5), with their last loss coming to Brazil in the Copa America 2019.
  • With 106 caps to his name, David Ospina is the most experienced Colombia player in the squad currently. He is also the second-most capped player in the history of the nation, with only Carlos Valderrama managing more (111).

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Argentina's main man (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Argentina’s main man (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

As is the case each time the Argentine national team takes the field, all eyes will be fixated on a certain Lionel Messi. The 33-year-old looked in fine fettle against Chile last time and seems to have not let the uncertainty surrounding his club future affect his form. A fit and firing Messi is a must for the Albiceleste if they are to go the distance in Copa America. So, Lionel Scaloni & co. will be hoping that their main man builds up to the tournament with a match-winning display on Tuesday night.

Prediction

Colombia 1-1 Argentina

Colombia, after their struggles towards the year-end in 2020, looked the part in their win over Peru last time out. With Argentina not exactly being at their very best and failing to convert draws into wins of late, another scored stalemate could be on the cards on Tuesday night in Barranquilla.

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