Lionel Messi will return to the Argentina starting line-up for tonight’s friendly against Venezuela, confirmed manager Lionel Scaloni.
The Barcelona superstar hasn’t featured for Argentina in nearly nine months after making his last appearance in their 4-3 World Cup defeat to France on June 30 in the last-16 stage.
Messi’s international future had been under immense doubt ever since then and remained notably silent on his plans, despite repeated assurances from the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
However, the 31-year-old’s return to the national set-up was finally announced earlier this month and Scaloni will now start Messi in tonight’s friendly as they prepare for the upcoming Copa America in Brazil this summer.
“It’s a joy that Messi comes back,” said Scaloni, according to SportsMax.
“Despite my youth, I have a chance to train him.
“I have to try to get the team to accompany him and make the best of it. Let’s hope that with Messi’s return the team is more empowered.”
It’s not been all goods news for La Albiceleste, though, as Angel Di Maria was forced to withdraw from selection upon sustaining a muscular injury.
“When a player gets hurt, it’s never good, both for the coach and for the group,” Scaloni added. “I would have liked to see Angel.
“Hopefully, when we have to give the list for the Copa America, all players are available.”
Despite having Messi back in the line-up, Scaloni is refusing to take Venezuela lightly as Argentina look to get their Copa America preparations off to a strong start.
“They’re a team on the rise. They play pretty direct football,” he said. “Venezuela is a very difficult rival. It’s a good test for what’s coming.
“We will try to do our best. We’ll attack and when we do not have the ball, defend as best as possible.”
The Argentina and Venezuela friendly will take place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium with kick-off set for 21:00 (CET).