Altitude and Messi concerns for Argentina in La Paz
Argentina will have the chance to start their World Cup qualifying campaign with back-to-back victories when they travel to La Paz for Tuesday's clash with Bolivia but the World champions will have to deal with the challenging altitude and the prospect of playing the game without their captain Lionel Messi.
The Albiceleste take on Bolivia at the Hernando Siles Stadium, a football ground that will pose a different kind of challenge for the Argentinian squad with its altitude sitting at a whopping 11,932 feet above sea level.
With players needing to be at their utmost fitness to deal with the altitude challenge in Bolivia, Argentina's challenge will be compounded if Lionel Scaloni decides to rest star forward Messi, whose late freekick saw the three-time World Champions eke out a 1-0 victory against Ecuador in their first qualifying game on Friday.
The 36-year-old Messi travelled with the squad but is not a certain starter at the game because of fatigue. Messi had asked to be substituted in their last game.
Scaloni said that even though Messi is fit for the game against Bolivia, a decision about him starting or even playing the game will be taken today.
"Leo trained separately, but he is fit. There are two days left, and we will make a decision on whether or not he will play the day before or on Tuesday. Messi and Cuti Romero are fit, and we'll see if he [Messi] plays from the start or from the bench or even if he doesn't play," Scaloni said in his pre-match press conference in Argentina before leaving for Bolivia.
While the world champions are hoping to follow up Thursday's victory over Ecuador, the hosts will have to pick themselves up from a heavy defeat to Brazil.
Bolivia's qualifying campaign began with a forgettable outing against five-time World Cup winners Brazil, who cruised to a 5-1 victory in Bellem.
Having lost their last five qualifiers, Bolivia coach La Verde will go into the daunting fixture against the world champions as massive underdogs.