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Argentina to start Lisandro Martinez, Julian Alvarez against Mexico?

Argentina to start Lisandro Martinez, Julian Alvarez against Mexico?

Manchester United centre-back Lisandro Martinez and Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez are reportedly in line to start their first game for Argentina at the 2022 World Cup in Saturday’s Group C contest against Mexico.

Both Martinez and Alvarez started in La Albiceleste’s comfortable 5-0 friendly win over United Arab Emirates last week prior to their trip to Qatar, and the former was one of four players who lasted the full 90 minutes.

However, Martinez was surprisingly left out of Lionel Scaloni‘s first XI for the shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, with Cristian Romero and Nicolas Otamendi preferred in central defence.

The 24-year-old came off the bench to replace Romero in the final half-hour after Argentina conceded two goals within a five-minute period early in the second half.

Alvarez, meanwhile, also came on as a substitute for the final 30 minutes after Scaloni opted to begin with Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez in attack alongside captain Lionel Messi.

Argentina's Julian Alvarez pictured during training on November 18, 2022© Reuters

According to the Daily Mirror, Scaloni is set to freshen up his side for their crucial encounter against Mexico, with both Lisandro Martinez and Alvarez in line to receive their first starts in Qatar.

The report adds that Martinez will replace Romero at the heart of the defence, while it remains to be seen who will drop out should Alvarez get the nod in attack.

After a difficult start to his Man United career, following his summer switch from Ajax, Martinez has since improved under the tutelage of Erik ten Hag, and he formed a strong partnership with Raphael Varane before the Frenchman sustained an injury earlier this month.

On the international stage, Martinez has made 11 senior appearances for Argentina, but he only featured in four of their 17 World Cup qualifiers.

As for Alvarez, the 22-year-old has understandably had to play second fiddle to Erling Braut Haaland at Man City so far this season, but his performances have not gone unnoticed when selected by Pep Guardiola, and he was recently named the club’s Etihad Player of the Month for November.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni pictured on November 22, 2022© Reuters

Each of Alvarez’s three international goals have come in his last four starts for Argentina, while he has also scored six goals in seven starts for Man City across the Premier League and Champions League this season.

Scaloni revealed at a press conference on Friday that he will consider making changes to his starting lineup following Tuesday’s defeat, while he also confirmed that Messi “is fine” and fit to feature despite reports in Argentina suggesting that he has emerged as a doubt for the Mexico clash.

“Messi is fine. More than ever we need everyone. Surely everything will go well, physically and morally, he is fine,” the 44-year-old told reporters.

“We have no doubts about our way of playing. In today’s training we will decide the team. It is possible that we make some variation.”

Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister and Sevilla right-back Gonzalo Montiel are also in contention to start against Mexico, which could see Papu Gomez and Nahuel Molina drop to the substitutes’ bench.

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