Argentina captain Lionel Messi could be left on the bench again for his country’s final Copa America Centenario group game due to fitness concerns, according to national coach Gerardo Martino.
Messi came into the tournament having picked up a back injury in a warm-up friendly against Honduras, while he also missed part of the team’s preparations as he was back in Europe facing charges of tax fraud in a Spanish court.
The Barcelona star sat out his country’s opening Group D 2-1 win over Chile in Santa Clara on June 6, and then entered as a substitute and scored a quick-fire hat trick as Panama were despatched 5-0 in their second game played in Chicago on June 10.
With his side now guaranteed to progress to the knockout stages, but not yet 100 percent sure to be group winners, the Albiceleste coach said at his prematch news conference that he would speak with Messi himself and the team’s medical staff before deciding what team to pick to face Bolivia in Seattle on Tuesday evening.
“Messi will play in the game,” Martino said. “We will do what we believe [best], according to the opinion of the player and the doctor. It seems to me that Leo lost his fear in the game against Panama. [When scoring his first goal] Leo made a run at speed and he felt more comfortable, much better in the game. As the days pass he will feel even better still.”
Winger Angel Di Maria is very unlikely to face Bolivia, having been substituted with an adductor muscle problem early in the clash with Panama, but Martino said the Paris Saint Germain player’s recovery was progressing well.
“I’ve seen [Di Maria] running around the pitch, and I see him in good spirits as well,” Martino said on Monday. “But I can’t tell you when he will be available to play.”
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