The Barcelona star has scored two of the Albiceleste's three goals in the tournament and will look to beat Stephen Keshi's side who themselves are on the brink of qualificationBy Matheus Harb in Porto Alegre
Argentina will look to finish Group F with a convincing win over Nigeria in Porto Alegre and build some momentum after hard-fought victories against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran in their first two matches.
The Albiceleste has been criticized for their lack of goals and for relying too much on Lionel Messi’s inspiration, with the star scoring two of their three goals in the tournament.
Coach Alejandro Sabella has come in for criticism for tinkering too much with his side’s tactics and formation, failing to get the best out of the attacking talent in the Argentina squad.
However, there is a feeling within the camp that Argentina will step up the quality of their football once the knockout phase begins.
“It’s not easy when your opponent sits back and there are too many defenders to beat,” said midfielder Angel Di Maria. “In the last 16, we will play opponents that like to attack, and that suits us. Everyone knows Argentina are much stronger when we have spaces to attack.”
With the 4-3-3 formation back in the picture, Sabella will likely repeat the starting XI that defeated Iran on Saturday, as he wants his team to be prepared for the decisive rounds of the tournament.
Defender Marcos Rojo may be rested as he is one yellow card away from being suspended for the second round match.
Sabella appears ready to stick with a 4-3-3 formation and is expected to start with the same XI that defeated Iran on Saturday as he prepares his team for greater challenges in the decisive rounds of the tournament.
The South Americans will have to overcome a battling Nigeria side, now on the brink of qualification after a surprising win over Bosnia at Arena Pantanal.
Coach Stephen Keshi stressed after his side’s last match, that he never doubted his men had potential to go further in the competition, while rallying the troops for another decisive encounter.
“The fighting spirit we showed was good”, Keshi said. "I never thought that we wouldn’t make the round of 16. I have the players.”
Midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has also called his teammates not to be afraid of Argentina’s superstars and warned against over-excitement despite the chance to reach the last 16.
“Messi is a normal human being, a football player," he told reporters. "Of course we have to strategise and make our plans to make sure we get things done [against Argentina].”
John Obi Mikel is a booking away from suspension so will have to be careful, but Nigeria are expected to name the same starting XI that beat Bosnia.