Despite a plethora of high quality attacking players, Argentina go into their final group stage game with elimination a very distinct possibility. After being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw with Iceland, things got even worse for the Albiceleste as they were hammered 3-0 by Croatia and they now need to beat Nigeria while hoping the other result goes in their favour.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men have to believe that will happen, needing to not only take three points here but also make up ground between themselves and Iceland, with the latter’s the goal difference currently -2 compared to their own -3. Of course if Croatia win then things get much easier, but beating Argentina’s African opponents will not be easy, the Super Eagles looking dangerous in their last outing.
Indeed, Nigeria’s win over Iceland gives them a chance to top the group and they will be further buoyed by the fact they recorded a victory over Argentina in Krasnodar back in November. However, the two sides have met four times at World Cups in the past, the South American side triumphing on every occasion.
Yet they will arrive at Saint Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium knowing they have much work to do, their performance last time out leaving Sampaoli with some major concerns. Foremost among the Coach’s problems was the shocking display from Willy Caballero in goal, and the Chelsea ‘keeper might find himself replaced by Nahuel Guzman between the sticks.
Angel Di Maria is also likely to return after being surprisingly being dropped against Croatia, while Marcos Rojo, Federico Fazio, Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega and Gonzalo Higuain are all rumoured to be included in the starting XI here.
Sampaoli is expected to go back to a 4-3-3 formation with Di Maria and Higuain joining Lionel Messi in attack and Argentina need the Barcelona star to be at his best here. He was completely anonymous last time out, but has usually delivered when his national team needs him – notably scoring the goals that saw them qualify for the World Cup – and will need to shine here if he is to prevent his side going home early.
Nigeria should continue with the 3-5-2 system that delivered the win over Iceland, with two-goal hero Ahmed Musa – who scored six times in ten Russian Premier League appearances on loan at CSKA Moscow last season – leading the way. John Obi Mikel suffered a late injury in that 2-0 win but he is expected to be fit enough to retain his place, as is Victor Moses who looked much more comfortable in a wing-back role.
Argentina (4-3-3): Nahuel Guzman; Gabriel Mercardo, Nicolas Otamendi, Federico Fazio, Marcos Rojo; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria
Nigeria (3-5-2): Francis Uzoho; Abdullahi Shehu, Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Brian Idowu; Victor Moses, Etebo Oghenekaro, Wilfred Ndidi, John Obi Mikel, Brian Idowu; Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa
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