Jorge Sampaoli said it is too risky to pair Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala together in the starting XI as Argentina fight desperately to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Argentina welcome fourth-placed Peru to Buenos Aires on Thursday, with Sampaoli’s men clinging to fifth place in the CONMEBOL standings, which would only be enough for a play-off berth.
With so much to play for at La Bombonera, head coach Sampaoli said he is reluctant to name five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and Dybala in the same line-up, given their lack of playing time together.
“As there is no time to work the Dybala-Messi relationship, we should go to something more concrete,” said Sampaoli, who is convinced Argentina will qualify for the showpiece in Russia.
Dybala, who has starred for Juventus this season with 12 goals in all competitions, previously admitted it was difficult playing with Barcelona icon Messi as the pair occupy similar positions.
On Dybala’s comments, Sampaoli added: “I don’t see as something bad what Dybala said. He said that he was happy to play with Messi, but he just did not find his place.”
“Leo [Messi] needs to move in the field normally as he does with his club,” Sampaoli continued. “To invent a position so as he can develop a system or to structure him, that would be crazy.
“When we use 4-2-3-1 formation he is even further forward, always near the box. Being away from the box puts our best player far from the scoring positions and that is what he does best in his club.
“It is my job to make him understand that he is vital in the finishing, in the last third of the pitch.”
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