ARGENTINA vs ITALY BETTING PREVIEW
Argentina have made it to the World Cup despite a very troubled Qualifiers campaign. They only edged it on final matchday with a 3-1 win away at Ecuador. The 28 points they picked up meant they were two points clear of Chile who missed out on a spot at the World Cup. Jorge Sampaoli’s men have earned just two wins in their last six outings across competitions and suffered a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Nigeria back in November. As for direct encounters, these sides have met just twice this century with Argentina winning 2-1 on both occasions.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli has named a strong squad with Messi and Gonzalo Higuain expected to lead the line while rising star Lautaro Martinez is expected to play at some stage. Man City attacker Sergio Aguero misses the Azzurri clash with injury while Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi have been overlooked. in defense, Emanuel Mammana has been ruled out for the rest of the season and the 2018 World Cup. Nicolás Tagliafico should build on his one cap at left-back. Leandro Paredes and Lucas Biglia are expected to start in the middle of the park. Sergio Romero and Willy Caballero are in contention for the goalkeeper berth.
Italy failed to make it to the World Cup finals in Russia this year, the first time they have missed the tournament since 1958. A 1-0 loss in Sweden in the World Cup Play-Off was followed by a goalless draw at home. A national catastrophe for which Giampiero Ventura paid the price with his job. The Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio will manage the team for the friendlies in March on a temporary basis. The Azzurri will have a tough UEFA Nations League to battle in September, October, and November as well as a busy summer ahead with major friendlies around Europe.
West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna has been called up to replace the injured Giorgio Chiellini. Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has cut short his retirement by returning to the Italy fold. Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa have both received their first-calls up to the squad while Mario Balotelli has been left out despite scoring 22 goals in 30 appearences for Nice this season. Ciro Immobile is expected to get the nod over Andrea Belotti as central forward, with Lorenzo Insigne and Antonio Candreva on his flanks. In midfield, Jorginho should be the playmaker with Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Pellegrini expected to feature from the off.
ARGENTINA vs ITALY PROBABLE LINEUPS Argentina (4-2-3-1): Romero; Mercado, Fazio, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Paredes, Biglia; Lanzini, Messi, Di Maria; Higuain
Italy (4-3-3): Buffon; Darmian, Rugani, Bonucci, Florenzi; Pellegrini, Verratti, Jorginho; Candreva, Insigne, Immobile
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