Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Untouchable’ Messi fit to face Spain, says Argentina boss



‘Untouchable’ Messi fit to face Spain, says Argentina boss

Lionel Messi is set to return from a minor injury for Tuesday night’s friendly against Spain, Argentina  coach Jorge Sampaoli has said. AFP
Lionel Messi is set to return from a minor injury for Tuesday night’s friendly against Spain, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has said. AFP

‘Untouchable’ Messi fit to face Spain, says Argentina boss

Argentina star Lionel Messi is set to return from a minor injury for Tuesday night’s international friendly against Spain, national team coach Jorge Sampaoli said on Monday.

The Barcelona forward sat out Friday’s 2-0 defeat of Italy in Manchester with a thigh muscle problem but came through Monday’s training session in Madrid and is expected to line up against the 2010 world champions.

“He trained as normal with the group so he’s okay to play,” Sampaoli told a news conference at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

Sampaoli insisted he was not gambling over his captain’s fitness by fielding Messi against Spain.

“If there was the slightest risk, Leo would have said something. The eve of the match against Italy he indicated that he was not in a state to play.

“But here, he did a fitness test [on Sunday], he did another one today and he’s fine . . . I don’t think there will be a problem [on Tuesday].”

Former Chile coach Sampaoli last week described the current Argentina team as “more Messi’s side than mine”.

“Football is about the players, what I meant was he has the power to create links and communicate out on the field,” he explained.

“He can generate a lot of stuff . . . it’s impossible to teach something to Messi.”

“We are in a place where Leo is untouchable,” added Sampaoli, before suggesting his team would be built around the advice he picked up from Messi.

“Leo, you have to listen to him, create situations that will be optimal for him and from there build a team in relation to that.”

However, the two-time World Cup winners will be without Angel di Maria, who hurt his thigh against Italy, and Sergio Aguero, with the Manchester City striker recovering from a knee injury.

Spain boss Julen Lopetegui, unbeaten in the position since replacing Vicente del Bosque after Euro 2016, says whether Messi features or not will have little bearing on his team selection.

“When we’re preparing for a game we’re not thinking about what’s in front of us,” Lopetegui said. “We’ve just played the world champions [Germany]and now face the runners-up who have an incredible player, who collectively have improved with the arrival of Sampaoli.

“What I have ahead of me is a valuable game against Argentina, against the World Cup finalists, sure to be one of the best players in history, and this is motivating us to show what we can do and develop a good feeling as a team.”

Spain and Argentina are seen as two leading contenders at the World Cup in Russia which runs from June 14 to July 15.

The last meeting between the countries came in a 2010 friendly in Buenos Aires where Messi scored in a 4-1 Argentina victory.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a