While Lionel Messi was able to return to the squad for Inter Miami during their loss to FC Cincinnati during the weekend, he’s still in doubt for Argentina’s World Cup qualifying match versus Paraguay according to manager Lionel Scaloni, who addressed the Argentine’s fitness in his prematch press conference. Messi has only played 73 minutes of club soccer since the September international break which could make a jump into the starting lineup tough even for someone of Messi’s caliber.
“For him, one more training session is important, and I will talk to him to decide whether he plays or not, but I have to talk to him first, and above all, I have to be sure that he can start,” Scaloni said this week.
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Scaloni could lean to have Messi available as a member of the squad but not start him but considering the nature of Messi’s injury it’s a tricky balance. Messi has missed time due to fatigue and a knock relating to a prior injury that he had. Both of those can flare up when overworked so it’s important that Messi isn’t placed into excessively stressful situations unless Scaloni is sure that his body can handle them. Reports in Argentina suggest he could possibly play as a second-half sub.
With the lineup announced, that will have to be the case if Messi does feature as he will start the match versus Paraguay from the bench. Scaloni has gone with a familiar lineup but still one that won’t include Messi from the first kick.
Starters: Emiliano Martinez, Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico, Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez, Rodrigo De Paul, Nicolas Gonzalez, Julian Alvarez, Lautaro Martinez
Reserves: Armani, Musso, Quartra, Lo Celso, Montiel, Ocampos, Paredes, Pezella, Rodriguez, Garnacho, Acuna
For all of 2023, Messi has realistically only had a few weeks of a break between leaving Paris Saint-Germain and joining Inter Miami which is where the overload comes from so being able to rest him during international fixtures when possible can go a long way. As Messi won’t be going on loan anywhere during the MLS offseason, he is about to enter his longest period of rest in years with no club or international commitments until November but making sure that he gets to that break while healthy is critical.