Argentina start their 2019 Copa America campaign with a tough fixture against Colombia in Salvador in Group B.
Fonte Nova Arena, Salvador, Brazil
Key Stat: Argentina are unbeaten in their last eight matches against Colombia, winning five of their last eight games against them.
Expert Verdict: Though their form has been patchy at best in the last few years, Argentina go into the Copa America among the teams most likely to upset hosts Brazil. They start with a difficult game against Colombia, however, and both teams may be happy with a point.
Sergio Aguero has been recalled to a strong Argentina squad and looks set to lead the line with Lionel Messi despite Lautaro Martinez scoring twice as a substitute in the friendly win against Nicaragua.
Lionel Messi – His lack of success in major international tournaments has been one of the few anomalies in his exceptional career – his two goals last time out took him to 67 in 130 games for Argentina.
Sergio Aguero – Back up front after another fine season for Manchester City, the striker has 39 goals in 90 international appearances.
Angel di Maria – Another of the long-serving players from the Messi generation of Argentina players, the PSG winger has 20 goals in 97 appearances.
Argentina have won four of their last five matches, but their one defeat was a surprising one – going down 3-1 against Venezuela, with Lautaro Martinez scoring their goal. Angel Correa scored the only goal as Argentina bounced back with a 1-0 win in Morocco, before a 5-1 thrashing of Nicaragua in their final warm-up match. Lionel Messi scored twice in the first-half, before Martinez’s double and Roberto Pereyra’s strike sealed victory.
Defenders:Renzo Saravia, Nicolas Otamendi, Juan Foyth, Nicolas Tagliafico
Defensive Midfielders:Leandro Paredes, Guido Rodriguez
Attacking Midfielders:Roberto Pereyra, Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria
Colombia were close to full strength in their final warm-up match against Peru, although Duvan Zapata staked his claim for a starting spot by scoring the third goal. He could come in for Luis Muriel, with Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez assured of the other two attacking roles.
Radamel Falcao – His penalty in the win against Panama was the 34th of his international career, from 85 Colombia caps.
James Rodriguez – The winger has scored 22 times in 72 games and, after a frustrating World Cup due to injury, he will want to prove himself again at this tournament.
Mateus Uribe – The midfielder scored his first two international goals in the friendly win against Peru last time out.
Colombia have bounced back from their friendly defeat to South Korea in March with two 3-0 wins in the build-up to the Copa America. William Tesillo, Luis Muriel and Radamel Falcao scored in Colombia’s win against Panama, while Mateus Uribe’s double and a late Duvan Zapata strike saw off ten-man Peru last time out.
Defenders:Cristian Zapata, Yerry Mina, Davinson Sanchez, William Tesillo
Midfielders:Juan Cuadrado, Edwin Cardona, Mateus Uribe
Forwards:James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Luis Muriel
Colombia have not beaten Argentina since November 2007 – one of only eight wins in this fixture, compared to seven draws and 24 Argentina victories. They have not even scored in the last five meetings, which includes three goalless draws – including their September 2018 friendly. Their most recent competitive match was in November 2016 during World Cup qualifying, and Lionel Messi, Lucas Pratto and Angel di Maria scored in a 3-0 Argentina win.
Argentina are favourites to beat Colombia but a draw would not be a bad result for either of them – and could be a good bet.
Lionel Messi got back in the goals at international level with two in the friendly win against Nicaragua, while Sergio Aguero is back in the squad with him.
Their generation has not delivered the major tournament success expected of them, but the likes of those two, Angel di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi bring experience and quality to this team.
For Colombia, Radamel Falcao will lead the line, with James Rodriguez off the wing – the latter in particular endured frustration due to injury last summer and will want a big tournament.
In short, there is quality in both ranks and, even though Argentina have a good record in this fixture, Colombia certainly should not be written off.
A draw would represent a solid start for both teams and would not hurt their overall ambitions.
Argentina are favourites to beat Colombia and have a good record in this fixture – an Argentina win is a best price of 5/4 with 888sport.
The draw is tempting at 11/5 with Bet365, however, and an Argentina-draw double chance is a best price of 1/3 with Bet365.
Both teams to score has been set at evens with Bet365, Ladbrokes and Betfair.
Lionel Messi is odds-on with Bet365 at 10/11 to score at any time. Radamel Falcao is 15/8 for Colombia.
Argentina have an excellent record against Colombia but their recent form has been patchy, while Colombia are in good shape. A draw would not be a bad opening result for either side.