Argentina-Belgium Preview: Messi out to book semi-final spot

Alejandro Sabella's side scraped through their last-16 clash against Switzerland and must improve to beat a Belgium team that also needed extra-time to reach the last-eight
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella will have breathed a sigh of relief after Angel Di Maria's late goal against Switzerland prevented the game from going to penalties, but another tough test on the way to their first World Cup title since 1986 awaits on Saturday in Brasilia against Belgium.

Sabella will have to make do without the services of left-back Marcos Rojo against the Europeans after the defender picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in the round of 16, with Jose Basanta expected to take his place.

Furthermore, Sergio Aguero remains unavailable due to injury, even though the Manchester City man returned to the training ground earlier this week for some light exercises ahead of a potential return in an eventual semi-final.

Aguero’s continued absence means that one of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Maxi Rodriguez is likely to start again versus Belgium, with the former seemingly sitting in pole position to get the nod.

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots, meanwhile, received some encouraging news from the treatment table concerning the fitness of Thomas Vermaelen, with the Arsenal man ready to make his comeback.

Vermaelen’s return could see either Jan Vertonghen or Daniel Van Buyten drop to the bench, although Wilmots could very well stick with the team that impressed against USA in the round of 16.

Tottenham star Mousa Dembele is doubtful for Saturday’s game due to a thigh injury and Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini are consequently expected to continue their partnership in midfield.
In attack, Wilmots will have to make a choice between Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi as his starting striker, with the Chelsea man likely to return to the starting XI after his impressive performance off the bench against the USA.