Paraguay vs Argentina
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
07 October 2021; 20:00 local time (19:00 EST//00:00 BST)
CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifier
The albirroja resume their oldest international rivalry by welcoming the albiceleste to the Defensores del Chaco, which will be at 50% capacity, for the first time in almost six years. The reigning Copa América champions have won just one qualifier in Paraguay since the turn of the century and that was against a depleted team and interim coach, the late Víctor Genes. Eduardo Berizzo has some key players back but is also missing some important components to his side as he starts this triple header at home.
The recent trend against “bigger” teams has been to play with a flexible 4-1-4-1 that can become a back five when Santiago Arzamendia becomes a wing back and the left back (Alderete or Alonso) slots into their more natural central defender role. This backfired against Ecuador where they became too negative and the striker, on that occassion Luis Amarilla was too isolated. However the two banks of four are a good way to protect the Albirroja down the flanks against the likes of Lionel Messi and Ángel di María so we could see this option used again. With Miguel Almirón authorized to travel this time around we can expect to see the Newcastle man straight in the starting XI and his alertness on the counter attack will be vital just as it was in Buenos Aires when these sides met last November. His return coincides with the good form of Alejandro “Kaku” Romero who started the last two home games scoring against Venezuela. That pair have only started together twice, coincidentally against Argentina in the 2021 Copa América (0-1 defeat) and a 3-1 win over Bolivia in the same tournament. If Berizzo was to plump for Arzamendia as a left midfielder it would likely leave Kaku out in the cold with Ángel Romero playing on the right and Almirón accompanying a fellow “presser” like Mathías Villasanti or Hugo Martínez in the middle.
Argentina come to the Defensores unbeaten in over two years and haven’t lost a WCQ at sea level since Tite pulled apart Pato Bauza’s side in November 2016. Messi had been under pressure having not scored from open play in this edition of the WCQs but responded with a hattrick against Bolivia in the last game. Interestingly the pulga has never managed a non-penalty goal against Paraguay in Asunción having scored two spot kicks in the 5-2 destruction in 2013, the albiceleste’s only victory this century. To learn more about Thursday’s rival check out our Guaraní Vision podcast!
Given the expectant crowd, the guaraní have only lost one of their five home qualifiers to date (against Brazil) and the return of Miguel Almirón there will be a feeling that Paraguay can take something from this match. Only Peru have failed to score at home against Scaloni’s side so far so the real question for Paraguay is if their own defence can hold, something they’ve yet to do at the Defensores.
Paraguay XI (Possible): Antony Silva; Robert Rojas, Gustavo Gómez, Junior Alonso, Omar Alderete; Jorge Morel; Ángel Romero, Mathias Villasanti, Miguel Almirón, Santiago Arzamendia; Tonny Sanabria
Argentina XI (Possible): Emiliano Martínez; José Montiel, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Acuña; Ángel Di María, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso; Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martínez
STATS AND TRIVIA
Paraguay have only failed to score in four of their last 19 home WCQs dating back to 2012,
Paraguay vs Argentina head-to-head (World Cup Qualifiers)
Pld 19 W 3 D 10 L 6 GF 16 GA 26
Paraguay’s only cleansheet in the last 14 home qualifiers was against Argentina (0-0 draw in 2015)
Paraguay vs Argentina head-to-head in Asunción
Pld 9 W 2 D 4 L 3 GF 9 GA 13
Parguay are unbeaten in their last three qualifiers agains the “old enemy”, their best run of this kind was six games between 2000 and 2009.
By Ralph Hannah