Argentina-Venezuela Preview: Albiceleste look to cement place at top of World Cup pile
The current Conmebol leaders will be without Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in the Monumental, but will still hope to take three points against an improving Vinotinto outfit
By Daniel Edwards
Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo
Mascherano, Gago, Montillo
Messi, Higuain, Lavezzi
A. Gonzalez, Tunez, Vizcarrondo, Cichero
Rincon, Lucena, C. Gonzalez, Arango
Alejandro Sabella's Argentina team has a very familiar look as the coach elects to keep the base of the side which 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 in the Monumental. 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 Celta Vigo man Andres Tunez at the back.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- 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 have tasted defeat so far in qualifying.
- The Albiceleste have scored over two goals a game across the tournament so far, notching 20 in nine appearances. Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain also share the honour 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, have never made the final stages of the tournament, and indeed only recorded their maiden qualifying victory in 2007 with a win over Ecuador.
- Captain Juan Arango is by far the most experienced of the Vinotinto line-up, having been capped 111 times since making his debut in 1999. He has also appeared in five Copas America, 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.
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Top 3 Predictions
Argentina 3-0 Venezuela
- 20.56 %
Argentina 3-1 Venezuela
- 13.34 %
Argentina 4-0 Venezuela
- 11.26 %
|World Cup Qualifying - Conmebol (WCQ)||Mar 23, 2013||Argentina 3 - Venezuela 0|
|World Cup Qualifying - Conmebol (WCQ)||Oct 12, 2011||Venezuela 1 - Argentina 0|
|International Friendlies (FR)||Sep 2, 2011||Venezuela 0 - Argentina 1|
|International Friendlies (FR)||Mar 16, 2011||Argentina 4 - Venezuela 1|
|World Cup Qualifying - Conmebol (WCQ)||Mar 28, 2009||Argentina 4 - Venezuela 0|
|Mar 5, 2014||Romania 0 - Argentina 0||FR|
|Nov 19, 2013||Argentina 2 - Bosnia 0||FR|
|Nov 16, 2013||Ecuador 0 - Argentina 0||FR|
|Oct 16, 2013||Uruguay 3 - Argentina 2||WCQ|
|Oct 12, 2013||Argentina 3 - Peru 1||WCQ|
|-||José María Basanta||Defender|
|-||Franco Di Santo|
|-||Andres Tuñez Arceo|
|-||Juan Fernando Arango|
|-||Tomás Eduardo Rincón|
|-||José Manuel Velázquez|
The Barcelona forward followed up a record-breaking 2012 with a great display in Argentina's first appearance of the year against Sweden, and if he can repeat his form of the last 12 months, few will bet against the Albiceleste booking their place in Brazil with games to spare.
|Juan Fernando Arango|
Doubts still remain over Argentina's solidity at the back, especially from set-pieces; an achilles heel that is ripe for exploitation by the exquisite left foot of Monchengladbach's midfield ace.
Venezuela are no longer the Cinderella of South American football, and have proved over the last few years that under Cesar Farias, they are a force to be reckoned with. That said, Argentina's superstars should have the tools to gain revenge for 2011's defeat and record a close yet comfortable victory.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed