Argentina vs Ecuador Possible starting lineups and team news for World Cup 2026 qualifier


Lionel Messi is set to reach his 176th cap for Argentina when they host Ecuador in Buenos Aires on Thursday night in the opening round of South America’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

After a tumultuous start to his US career at Inter Miami, Messi scored 10 goals in seven League Cup games.

A goal on his MLS debut at New York Red Bulls soon followed, before Messi picked up two assists in a 3-1 away win over LAFC at the weekend.

Messi is just one of a number of Argentinian strikers who have started the season superbly, however, with Angel Di Maria, Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez all tipped to start.

Alvarez has started all of Manchester City’s Premier League games this season and found the net in their two home wins over Newcastle United and Fulham.

Martinez got off to a remarkable start at Inter Milan with five goals in three Serie A games and picked up where he left off last season when his 28 goals helped Inter to a top-four finish, the Champions League final and the Coppa Italia crown.

Di Maria has since left Italian football and moved back to Benfica, where his European career began in 2007, and comes into the international break having scored in back-to-back matches, having also found the net in the Super Cup win over Porto. , and on opening day in Boavista.

Not much is likely to change from the side that started the World Cup final, but manager Lionel Scaloni may opt for another attacking option as they are favourites, so all four could start.

Scaloni can use the tried and tested method that also won the World Cup, as this time he has all 11 starters from the final against France in the squad.

Paulo Dybala and Emi Buendia are the two notable injury absentees from this squad, with the latter out long-term with an ACL injury.

Lisandro Martinez is in the squad despite being sidelined early with what appeared to be an injury in Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

In terms of personnel changes, Scaloni opted to leave out Sevilla duo Marcos Acuna and Lucas Ocampos, as well as Tottenham Hotspur outcast Giovani Lo Celso, whose fitness is currently in doubt.

Argentina’s possible starting lineup:

Emiliano Martínez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolás Otamendi, Nicolás Tagliafico; Rodrigo De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Alexis Mac Allister, Nicolás González; Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martínez or Julián Álvarez.

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