Sunday, October 22, 2017

Prediction: Ecuador vs Argentina

Verdict: Lionel Messi to score first goal – yes

Best Odds: 12/5

Bookmaker: bet365

Argentina have their backs against the wall in the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers. Jorge Sampaoli’s men sit sixth in the standings with only one game left on the schedule, and they do not have margin of error now. They need to win – and wait for some results to go their way – if they want to punch a direct ticket to the tournament. They will visit Ecuador in what will be their last chance to turn things around. The game will be played on Wednesday at 0:30 BST and the referee will be Anderson Daronco from Brazil.

Ecuador

Ecuador have not been in good form of late, and that has led to several changes at several levels of the team. Friday’s loss against Chile buried any chance Ecuador might have had of reaching the 2018 World Cup, so the team has nothing to play for in this game against Argentina. But manager Jorge Celico – who was appointed a few weeks ago to replace Gustavo Quinteros – has said the team wants to end the qualifying campaign with a win over Argentina. They might be motivated to win, but their recent form has not been impressive since Los Amarillos have lost their past five matches. In fact, they have secured only eight points in their last 13 games. Those numbers would not strike fear on any team, but Ecuador have looked rather decent at home thanks to four wins, one draw and three losses overall. They have the altitude factor going their way since Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa sits at almost 3,000 meters above sea level. Can they take advantage of it?

Team News

Ecuador are going through a rebuilding process, and that has led to several changes on the squad. Therefore, names such as Christian Noboa, Arturo Mina, Frickson Erazo and Felipe Caicedo have not been included on the team for these two matches.

Those won’t be the only absentees, though. Antonio Valencia has been suspended, and Jefferson Montero has been ruled out with an injury. The positive news is the return of Enner Valencia, who missed Friday’s game against Chile with a muscular problem.

Argentina

Argentina are considered one of the best teams in the world. However, they are quite complicated on the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, and they currently sit sixth with 25 points. If the Qualifiers ended today, they would be out of the 2018 World Cup. Therefore, winning against Ecuador is imperative if they want to keep themselves alive. A win would grant them a playoff berth, and a win could even send them straight to Russia. And while they could easily be considered favourites thanks to an impressive collection of talent – led by Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria – nothing suggests they should be treated as such. Jorge Sampaoli is yet to win an official game with La Albiceleste, and the team is currently riding a four-game winless streak with three draws and one defeat. To make things even more complicated, they have not won in Quito since 2001. Can they secure the three points when it matters the most?

Team News

Jorge Sampaoli once again left Gonzalo Higuain out of the squad. As a result, the Juventus star will not be available for this game.

Marcos Rojo, Ramiro Funes Mori and Fernando Gago are out as well due to injury. The latter tore his anterior cruciate ligament during Friday’s draw against Peru.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Argentina have not won in Quito in 16 years. Their last win came during the 2002 World Cup Qualifiers.
  • Argentina are yet to win in the Qualifiers since the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli. They drew their three games against Uruguay, Venezuela, and Peru.
  • Both sides have been on negative runs. While Argentina are riding a four-game winless streak, Ecuador have lost their past five qualifying matches.
  • Ecuador have posted a 4W 1D 3L record at home.
  • Argentina have one of the worst attacking units in the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, since they have scored just 16 goals in 17 matches.

Conclusion

Argentina need to win the match to keep themselves alive. For that to happen, they need their star players to appear when it matters the most. Lionel Messi has not been playing well of late, and he needs to re-discover his FC Barcelona form playing for La Albiceleste. Therefore, we believe he will lead the side this Wednesday, and will score the first goal of the game in Ecuadorian soil.

Verdict: Lionel Messi to score first goal – yes

Best Odds: 12/5

Bookmaker: bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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