Uruguay hosts Argentina on August 31, Thursday in a critical game for the visitors. Argentina is currently fifth place in the standings and they want a top-four finish to avoid the play-off game. On the other hand, Uruguay sits third behind Brazil and Colombia. A win for Uruguay gives them a great chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Brazil already qualified for the 2018 World Cup while Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina are all vying for the last three automatic spots. Argentina is just a point behind Uruguay and Chile, and a win on Thursday could propel La Albiceleste to as high as the second spot.
As for Uruguay, they got an unexpected help from Barcelona star Luis Suarez, who will return to action after suffering a knee injury in the Supercopa de España against Real Madrid, per Sport-English.com. Suarez was initially ruled out for four weeks but the Uruguay team doctor has not ruled him out against Argentina and Paraguay.
Suarez’s Barcelona teammate, Lionel Messi, also returns for Argentina after his four-match ban for verbally abusing a referee was overturned. According to Sky Sports, Messi’s return can help Argentina avoid missing out on the 2018 World Cup for the first time since 1970. Argentina has won the last two matchups against Uruguay by a score of 1-0.
In the pre-match press conference (h/t GOAL.com), newly-appointed Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli explained his decision of leaving out Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain in favor of Mauro Icardi. Sampaoli told reporters that he wanted a striker who can both score and make plays. Higuain has played poorly for Argentina, especially in three straight tournament finals.
“We need a striker who, as well as goals, has the characteristics of an assist-maker. That’s we why called him up. We’re facing a reality in which we are left outside of Russia and, with little time left, we have to take advantage of every virtue in this squad. When we talked with Gonzalo, we told him why we didn’t call him up.”
On the other hand, Uruguay captain and defender Diego Godin knows what they need to do to ensure that they going to win against Argentina on Thursday. Godin told FourFourTwo that they have to limit what Lionel Messi can do and focus on defense.
“Of course, making a great defensive job, make a great installment, being close to each other to intercept any passes to Messi, especially the areas of the field where he can be more important, that’s important and it’s not only the defense’s job but the whole team’s.”
As mentioned earlier, Gonzalo Higuain was not called up in favor of Mauro Icardi. Manuel Lanzini and Eduardo Salvio are also out for Argentina because of injury. Uruguay has an almost complete roster with Luis Suarez back up front with Edinson Cavani. Only backup striker Abel Hernandez is out due to an injury.
Uruguay vs. Argentina is scheduled on August 31 at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. Kickoff time is at 4:00 PT and 7:00 p.m. ET. Fans in the United States can watch the game on beIN Sports. Uruguay vs. Argentina won’t be broadcasted live in the United Kingdom. However, it is still available via live stream on beIN SPORTS CONNECT and fuboTV. For the complete list of channels and live stream links, visit Live Soccer TV.
[Featured Image by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]