Argentina vs Italy preview, betting tips and prediction: Will Messi continue stunning form with La Albiceleste?

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A star-studded Argentina squad head to Manchester to face Italy at the Etihad Stadium on Friday evening, with Jorge Sampaoli finally settling into his role as the national team boss. La Albiceleste qualified for the World Cup in Russia by the skin of their teeth thanks to star man Lionel Messi, who netted a hattrick in the final game of the campaign against Ecuador to give the finalists four years ago the chance to go one better this summer. Messi, Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala will be taking on Italy at the home of Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi’s Manchester City, with the Azzurri still looking for a new coach after failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958. Luigi Di Biagio has been put in caretaker charge.

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This game should be an incredible spectacle, with some of the best talent around on show, but neither of these sides are at their strongest. From an Argentina point of view, it is important for Sampaoli to find his best formula, with so much talent in their side. But for all their attacking quality, Argentina mostly relied upon their defence in qualifying. Italy will be hoping to put on a show for their perspective new coach, and they could get chances, but we think they will come up short in the end.

Form

Argentina were unbeaten since Sampaoli replaced Edgardo Bauza in June until they lost in Russia to Nigeria, who they will face again this summer, in November. Messi’s hattrick proved pivotal against Ecuador, and he is in typically fantastic form for Barcelona right now.

Italy suffered the darkest day of their recent history against Sweden in November and it cost Gianpiero Ventura his job. But the Azzurri have lost just two of their last ten games.

Team News

West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna has been called up to replace the injured Giorgio Chiellini for Italy.

Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori has recovered from a long-term knee injury and could make his comeback at the Etihad.

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