Messi ready for World Cup qualifiers, says Argentina boss

AGENCY: SEPT. 2 – Lionel Messi will be fit to play in all three of Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia, Albiceleste head coach Lionel Scaloni said on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old forward has not started a match since the Copa America final on July 10, in which Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. His only competitive appearances since then came in a 25-minute cameo for new club Paris Saint-Germain in their 2-0 Ligue 1 win at Reims on Sunday.

“From my conversations with him, there are no doubts whatsoever,” Scaloni told a virtual news conference. “He hasn’t had many minutes but he is going to play and hopefully he will do so in all three games.”

Argentina will meet Venezuela in Caracas on Thursday and Brazil in Sao Paulo on Sunday before a clash with Bolivia in Buenos Aires on September 9.

Scaloni said he also expects Aston Villa pair Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia to feature in all three games despite a request by the Premier League club for the pair to miss the duel with Bolivia.

But the manager will be without central defender Cristian Romero and midfielder Leandro Paredes for the matches due to suspension.

“Tomorrow’s game [Thursday] will be very difficult. Venezuela are in need of points and have a strong team,” Scaloni said.

Argentina are currently second in the South American zone qualifiers for next year’s World Cup, six points behind leaders Brazil.