World Cup Qualifying Preview: Argentina - Venezuela

The current CONMEBOL leader will be without Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria but will still hope to take three points against an improving Vinotinto outfit.

 Burdisso, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo
Mascherano, Gago, Montillo
Messi, Higuain
, Lavezzi
A. Gonzalez, Tunez, Vizcarrondo, Cichero
Rincon, Lucena, C. Gonzalez, Arango
Seijas, Rondon

Alejandro Sabella's Argentina team has a very familiar look as the coach elects to keep the base of the side that impressed during an unbeaten 2012. Sabella, however, is forced to make two changes from his habitual XI.

Sergio Aguero's injury leaves a space up front, which will most likely be filled by Ezequiel Lavezzi. Angel Di Maria is also unavailable due to suspension; in a surprise choice, Santos playmaker Walter Montillo looks set to partner Fernando Gago and Javier Mascherano in the middle of an attacking Albiceleste line-up.

Currently fourth in the World Cup standings and dreaming of a first-ever appearance at football's biggest tournament, Venezuela will have to make do without the talents of historic goalscorer Fernando Amorebieta. The central defender scored the only goal in 2011 when the Vinotinto recorded their first-ever victory over Friday's opponents, 1-0 in Puerto La Cruz, but is injured and unavailable for the return clash. In his place, Lanus' Oswaldo Vizcarrondo will partner with Celta Vigo man Andres Tunez at the back.

  • Argentina went down two years ago to Friday's rivals after winning every single one of their previous 19 encounters.
  • Fernando Amorebieta (pictured) made history for his nation with the match's solitary strike, the only time Argentina has tasted defeat so far in qualifying.
  • The Albiceleste have scored more than two goals a game across the tournament so far, notching 20 in nine appearances. Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain also share the honor of top scorer alongside Uruguay's Luis Suarez.
  • Sabella's men are looking to book their place at an 11th consecutive World Cup, having appeared at every competition except 1934 and 1938 (withdrew) and 1970 (failed to qualify).
  • Venezuela, on the other hand, has never made the final stages of the tournament, and indeed only recorded its maiden qualifying victory in 2007 with a win over Ecuador. 
  • Captain Juan Arango is by far the most experienced of the Vinotinto lineup, having been capped 111 times since making his debut in 1999. He has also appeared in five Copa America tournaments, and is five caps short of becoming Venezuela's record appearance holder.
  • Friday will be the first time the Vinotinto take the field since the passing of president Hugo Chavez, an outspoken supporter of national football who recently lost a long battle against cancer.