Argentina face Mexico on Saturday night still smarting from one of the World Cup’s great shocks.
“We’re dead,” Lionel Messi said in the wake of Argentina’s 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. Lionel Scaloni only has four days to revive his squad for a match which has ballooned in importance.
For Mexico’s manager, Gerardo Martino, the significance of this tie was guaranteed regardless of the opening results. The Rosario-born boss led Argentina to a pair of Copa America finals, losing both on penalties to Chile before resigning in 2016.
Here’s everything you need to know about a high-stakes encounter for all concerned.
Argentina vs Mexico H2H Results (All Time)
Current Form (Last Five Games)
Argentina team news
While their reputations were certainly dented, Argentina appeared to emerge from the humbling loss to Saudi without any fresh injury concerns.
Paulo Dybala was one of several attacking options which Scaloni overlooked on Tuesday, leaving Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Messi on for the full 90 minutes.
Argentina Starting 11 (4-3-3): E Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna; De Paul, Paredes; Di Maria, Messi, Alvarez; La Martinez.
Bench: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Tagliafico, Montiel, Pezzella, Li Martinez, Palacios, Gomez, Rodriguez, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Gonzalez, Correa, Dybala.
Mexico team news
Martino plumped for Henry Martin ahead of Raul Jimenez against Poland, introducing the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker for the final 20 minutes.
Eased back to fitness following his injury-riddled start to the campaign, Jimenez could be in line for his first competitive start since August.
Mexico Starting 11 (4-3-3): Ochoa; Sanchez, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo; Chavez, E Alvarez, Herrera; Lozano, Jimenez, Vega.
Bench: Talavera, Cota, Araujo, Vasquez, Arteaga, G Alvarez, Romo, Rodriguez, Gutierrez, Pineda, Guardado, Antuna, Alvarado, Martin, Funes Mori.
Scaloni’s side may have shed their invincible tag, but the 36-match unbeaten sequence Argentina took into the competition can’t be entirely brushed aside. The Albiceleste have never lost consecutive matches under Scaloni. In fact, following his first defeat at the helm, Argentina defeated Mexico in their very next game.
After the initial gloom, Messi’s post-match thoughts swiftly turned towards his next opponents, who were the better team against Poland but relied upon Robert Lewandowski’s penalty miss to escape with a point. “Now, it’s the time to focus on strength and the unity of the group,” he stressed. “It’s time for us to be more united than ever. It’s time to calm down.”
If they can rediscover the serenity which underpinned their unbeaten streak, Argentina should be able to bounce back against El Tri. Although, they’ve not stuck to the script so far.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Mexico