Arguably the best player in the world may not take the pitch in an international friendly on Tuesday night. Argentina forward Lionel Messi remains doubtful to appear against Ecuador at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, due to an ailing foot.
Argentina manager Gerardo Martino said he understood American supporters are likely to be disappointed, but he gave reasons for why the 27-year-old Barcelona scorer and playmaker is expected to ride the bench for the second straight match.
"The third training day he was unable to wear the right boot,” Martino said to reporters Monday. “We all understand that the fans had hoped to see him play, but he was really unable.
"Leo always tries to play. We'll wait for his recovery until the last minute before the kick-off, but we won't risk him.
"If he remains this way, he won't play on Tuesday."
Messi, who has recorded 52 goals and 16 assists in all competitions this term, suffered the injury in the Catalans 2-1 victory over rival Real Madrid in “El Clasico” back on March 22. He would first sit out Argentina’s 2-0 victory over El Salvador in Washington D.C. over the weekend.
In Messi’s absence, midfielder Federico Mancuello would make his team debut and score against El Salvador, with midfielder Ever Banega notching his second international goal of the term.
And it’s not like supporters will be entirely disappointed, with Argentina loaded with top talent like Carlos Tevez, who’s the leading goal scorer in Italy’s Serie A, as well as forward Gonzalo Higuain and midfielders Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Since falling to German in the World Cup final, Martino’s side has won five of their last six matches and allowed four total goals.
However, they will meet an Ecuador side that’s more than capable of racking up goals. Before a 1-0 loss to Mexico over the weekend, Ecuador blasted El Salvador 5-1 and stymied the United States for a 1-1 draw.
Sixto Vizuete’s side is especially loaded at the top of the attack with West Ham forward Enner Valencia, as well as forward Jaime Ayovi and midfielder Angel Mena.
Kick Off Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: beIN Sport (Latin feed)
Live Stream Info: A live stream is available at beIN Sport’s official site here
Prediction: Argentina over Ecuador, 3-1