On Wednesday Argentina play Russia in Moscow in an international friendly, with Diego Maradona’s charges looking to gain some sort of momentum to take into their World Cup qualifier at home to Brazil in Rosario next month. Argentine sports daily Olé claim that Andrei Arshavin is viewed as a ‘hope for the future’ in Russia, a claim which ignores the fact he’s 28-years-old, and also say that the match is being billed there as a showdown between the Arsenal star and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. Well it’s a walkover, because Messi won’t play. He’s got a knock carried over from Barça’s pre-season tour, and won’t be risked. The expected starting lineup includes one player from England’s second divisi… sorry, I mean The Championship. Here it is.
Argentina expected starting XI to face Russia, Weds 12th August 2009 (manager Diego Armando Maradona):
J. Zanetti —- N. Burdisso —- N. Otamendi —- G. Heinze
M. Rodríguez — J. Mascherano — M. Bolatti — J. Gutiérrez
D. Milito —- S. Agüero
Messi’s injury is a strain to his right aductor, and doesn’t seem to be a cause of too grave a concern – a Barcelona club doctor is with him and it’s put down to the normal rigmarole of pre-season combined with a lengthy flight to Moscow. As for those who are in the side, Nicolás Otamendi’s place in the team continues after the Vélez defender’s first start in the 2-0 defeat away to Ecuador, as does Gabriel Heinze’s international career, continuingly bafflingly, following the ‘defender’s’ move from The Club Who Invented Football to Olympique Marseilles.
Mario Bolatti, who started 2009 as an unwanted squad member at FC Porto in Portugal, and was loaned to Huracán for six months as a result, is set to finally make his debut for his country. The then 22-year-old was named in the provisional squad for the 2007 Copa América but didn’t make the final cut. At the age of 24, his time seems to have come now. If he does indeed form part of a deep midfield base next to captain Javier Mascherano, Sergio Agüero will have to drop off to help create for Diego Milito, and the emphasis will also fall on the wide men. Of those, Jonás Gutiérrez expressed recently how odd it would be for a team like Argentina to take a second division player to a World Cup, but so far at least Maradona seems to have every intention of doing just that. Time will tell.
The match kicks off at 19:00 local time (12 midday in Buenos Aires; 16:00 British Summer Time) in Lokomotiv Stadium. We’ll have a write-up and highlights / goal videos here on HEGS a little later on Wednesday evening for your pleasure.