Attempting to climb the CONMEBOL standings and find some consistency on the attacking front, changes may be in store for World Cup finalist Argentina as they play host to border-mate Bolivia in Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier in Cordoba.
The Albiceleste are coming off a 2-1 victory over Chile, one that has all but locked up their move to No. 1 in next month’s FIFA rankings thanks to almost every other nation tied up in friendly play. However, Argentina sit in fifth place with eight points after five matches, while Ecuador are surprisingly on top of the table with 13 points.
According to Argentine news outlet La Nacion, Manchester City regular and striker Sergio Aguero may find himself on the bench in favor of Gonzalo Higuain. Aguero failed to convert several opportunities against Chile prompting Gerardo Martino to bench him in the 67th minute.
With the exception of Lionel Messi, Aguero is considered Argentina's most reliable scorer. He's netted 32 goals and 69 caps in his international career, but has struggled with City in recent games.
While Argentina are expected to qualify for the World Cup, Martino may have no choice but to favor Higuain over Aguero. In the last meeting between Argentina and Bolivia, Aguero lit up Bolivia in a 7-0 victory at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium, but the stakes are much higher and the 27-year-old has not quite looked like himself since his brace against lowly Aston Villa on Mar. 5.
In other lineup news, veteran defender Martin Demichelis is expected to start for the suspended Nicolas Otamendi. Demichelis has endured struggles of his own with City. In a critical home match on Mar. 20 against Manchester United, the 35-year-old failed to contain Marcus Rashford, who scored the lone goal of the match, and appeared to get away with a foul in the penalty box.
Bolivia sit in ninth place with a mere three points after nearly drawing against Colombia. Forward Juan Arce’s penalty and midfielder Alejandro Chumacero’s goal kept the score at 2-2, but Colombia scored in extra time leaving Julio Cesar Baldivieso’s side without a single point.
It's been a major struggle for Bolivia against South American competition. In their last eight games, they have managed just one win, earning a 4-2 home win over downtrodden Venezuela on Nov. 12.
La Verde have qualified for the World Cup just three times. The last time they reached the tournament was 1994.
Bolivia have been outscored 12-0 by Argentina in their last two meetings, both friendlies.
D: Mercado, Demichelis, Pinola, Rojo
M: Mascherano, Biglia, Banega
F: Messi, Higuain, Di Maria
D: Saavedra, Morales, Eguino, Zenteno
M: Chumacero, Lizio, Bejarano, Fernandez
F: Arce, Ramallo
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Argentina over Bolivia, 3-0