Spain v Argentina, International friendly, November 14, 2009
Two of the favourites for the 2010 World Cup will face off on Saturday night, with the Spanish football federation is aiming to celebrate its centenary by winning a prestigious friendly at home to Argentina.
The match will be one of the last international games staged at Atletico’s Madrid Estadio Calderon, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2012.
As usual, Argentina manager Diego Maradona has focused much of the pre-match headlines, with the fire-cracker coach set to appear before a FIFA disciplinary committee on Sunday in respect of his foul-mouth rant at the end of Argentina’s 1-nil win in Uruguay that guaranteed his team a place at the finals in South Africa. If found guilty, Maradona could receive a touch-line ban which could spill over to the World Cup itself.
Maradona has also stayed true to his erratic managerial form, which has seen Argentina win nine of 13 matches under his rule, by shaking up his squad with the inclusion of Inter Milan midfielder Esteban Cambiasso and defenders Cristian Ansaldi from Russian outfit Rubin Kazan and Diego Perotti from Sevilla. (Argentina are 11/4 to keep a clean sheet)
Also recalled to the national team are Real Madrid’s Fernando Gago and Atletico Madrid’s Maxi Rodriguez (11/1 to score first), who both missed the win in Montevideo through injury.
But, for all of the fresh faces, most eyes will be firmly fixed on arguably the best football in the world – Lionel Messi (10/1 to score a brace) Messi has consistently been criticised for failing to bring his spellbinding club-form with him on international duty, and it is hoped that playing in his familiar Spanish surrounding the pocket-dynamo can turn of the magic. Messi will likely be partnered with home favourite Sergio Aguero ( 15/8 to score) in the Argentina attack, with Gonzalo Higuain (13/2 to score last) another option while Angel di Maria will be looking to join the attack from midfield.
Vicente del Bosque, whose Spain side qualified for South Africa at a canter, has to contend with several headaches with the likes of Marcos Senna, Santi Cazorla, Albert Riera and Fernando Torres all unavailable through injury.
Sevilla right-winger Jesus Navas (7/4 to score), who has previously been absent from international football having claimed that he suffered anxiety attacks on extended trips away from home, is now back in the fold after claiming that his ills have been cured. Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez( 9/1 to score first) has also made the squad on the back of some strong recent performances.
While the match will afford itself to these new call-ups, Del Bosque will also rely on his tried-and-tested stalwarts against the Argis. This should see serial -goalscorer David Villa (7/1 to score a brace) start up-front with Dani Guiza, while Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas (7/2 to score) could show onlookers how next season’s Barca midfield could line-up.
Finally, should Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas be selected between the posts, the match will be the keeper’s 100th international cap. ( Spain are 11/8 to keep a clean sheet)
101gg predicts: Spain 3 – Argentina 2 (25/1)
Full match odds here.