There are few changes in Argentina’s squad to meet Honduras and Jamaica in this month’s FIFA dates, the last chance to warm up before the World Cup kicks off in November.
This is hardly a shock. There is no need for radical alteration. This is a team that has been unbeaten for more than three years, and that last time out thrashed European champions Italy at Wembley in June before cruising 5-0 past Estonia.
But there is a little tinker round the edges, and it has to do with the Premier League.
If there is one position in Qatar that might be up for grabs, it is that of the left sided centre back. Tottenham’s Cristian Romero is undisputed first choice on the right, and has made the position his own over the past 16 months.
Alongside him is Nico Otamendi, the former Manchester City defender who, at the age of 34 has probably seen better days.
Now at Benfica, Otamendi could come under pressure for his place – and even if he stays in the team, he is likely to pick up a suspension and need to be replaced in the course of the World Cup.
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With his form in the Dutch league, Marcos Senesi had played himself into contention. He made his Argentina debut in June, coming off the bench for the last half hour against Estonia.
He must surely have hoped that the move to the Premier League would boost his chances. Bournemouth may not have been the wrong place. But it was certainly the wrong time.
Without a pre-season, with no time to get to know his new colleagues – and defending is always a collective task – Senesi was thrown straight into the deep end against in form Arsenal.
And after one heavy defeat, came the trip to a Liverpool side smarting from their own loss to Manchester United.
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Not surprisingly, Liverpool came at Bournemouth like a wounded beat, and after a 9-0 scoreline Senesni could look back on a bruising, traumatic start to life in the Premier League. And to make matters worse, he has now lost his place in the Argentina squad.
Meanwhile, Lisandro Martinez is in there – of course, because he has been Otamendi’s back up for a while, and started two World Cup qualifiers earlier this year.
Like Senesi, Martinez came in to the Premier League from Holland, and also got off to a sticky start, with deeply disappointing defeats to Brighton and Brentford.
But he has two big advantages over Senesi. He arrived earlier, with time to bed in – and with a coach who knows him well. And also, he is playing for a far better team.
Manchester United have dug deep under Erik Ten Hag, and ground out a sequence of morale boosting results. In the crunch game against Liverpool, fortune smiled on Lisandro Martinez.
The suspension of Darwin Nunez took away a physical striker who would have looked to engage the centre back in a battle. And David De Gea saved him from scoring an own goal – which would hardly have been his fault, but which would have led to some negative headlines and added to the pressure.
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So far, his lack of height has not been a huge problem. Martinez has defended efficiently, and as his confidence grows he is starting to show more of that left footed ability to play the ball out of defence – almost certainly the main reason that Ten Hag spent so much to acquire him.
Doing all this for Manchester United gives Lisandro Martinez a profile bigger than anything he has previously enjoyed. It could help him overtake Otamendi on the final straight of the road to Qatar.
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