“For one of our players to get hurt would be catastrophic.”
With key back to back qualifying matches against Brazil and Paraguay in September, it is no surprise that Diego Maradona is apprehensive about his team’s friendly match with Russia on Wednesday. Normally, you find international managers appreciate the oddly timed friendlies as it gives them the chance to prepare and experiment with their team selection. However, in this case, Maradona has unsurprisingly questioned the logical thinking of staging a possibly injury threatening encounter before two games that will go a long way to deciding whether or not Argentina will be present at the 2010 World Cup.
The Argentina coach has already had the unwanted news that solid centre back Martin Demichellis is out for six weeks with a torn ligament meaning he will miss the two qualifiers in early September. Add this to injury doubts over midfield rock Fernando Gago and precautionary withdrawels from Juan Sebastien Veron and Carlos Tevez and you can see why the under fire boss is concerned.
Despite injury worries, Maradona’s squad selection has once again come under scrutiny for the failure to pick certain players. For what exactly Gonzalo Higuain and Esteban Cambassio have done to be completely ignored again is something that only the manager knows. Higuain’s chances for a future call up look rather dead and buried considering all the recent arrivals at Real Madrid. Add to the fact that Hernan Crespo looks to be guaranteed a starting spot at Genoa and Javier Saviola has a fresh challenge at Benfica and there are alternative viable options who will be more in Maradona’s favour if there is a striker shortage.
The squad as a whole looks fairly familiar although there are call ups for the uncapped trio of Espanyol defender Nicolas Pareja, Huracan midfielder Mario Bolatti and Napoli winger Jesus Datolo. Considering it’s only a friendly, these three may win their first caps but it’s a thankless task attempting to predict who Maradona will start with and bring on.
The Russians have picked what they would consider to be their first choice squad. The only notable absentee is new Chelsea signing Yuri Zhirkov who is recovering from injury whilst Roman Pavlyuchenko joins up with the team only hours after scoring for Tottenham in a pre season friendly.
Possible line up:
Other: Carrizo, Otamendi, Papa, Pareja, Bolatti, Datolo, Lavezzi, Lopez
Prediction: Russia 2-0 Argentina