Messi Could Miss 2018 World Cup
Lionel Messi makes a return from a ban for Argentina against Uruguay on Thursday, as his country faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup final for the first time since 1970.
Two wins from their last seven qualifiers has seen the two-time World Cup winners in danger of not making it to Russia next year.
Argentina, ranked third in the world by FIFA and on their third coach of the qualification process, are fifth in the CONMEBOL standings with four fixtures left.
As it stands, they could miss out on an automatic qualification spot and instead play the winner of the Oceania qualification process (most likely New Zealand) in a play-off to grab a ticket.
However, Ecuador are just two points behind Argentina ahead of Thursday’s round of fixtures, and Jorge Sampaoli’s team travel to Montevideo to take on third-placed Uruguay.
The Uruguay squad will be nervous too. They have lost their last three qualifiers, conceding nine in the process.
If Argentina wants to remain on track for Russia 2018, they need three points against Uruguay and three more against bottom side Venezuela on Tuesday, before a winnable home clash with Peru in October.