Argentina vs Peru preview, betting tips and predictions: Messi to inspire shot-shy hosts to victory

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Draw HT/Argentina FT @ 3/1 with Betfair

Argentina to win 2-0 @ 6/1 with Betfair

Lionel Messi to score first @ 12/5 with Betfair

When Argentina reached the World Cup final in Brazil three years ago, it seemed inconceivable they would not be taking their place in Russia in 2018. But that is a real possibility right now, with La Albiceleste sat in fifth in the South American qualification group. They are level on 24 points but a place behind their next opponents, Peru.

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Lionel Messi and co. may be truly underachieving, but Peru are doing much better than expected. Jorge Sampaoli is yet to make a real impact as boss, and this game will not be a pushover for them, Argentina have found converting draws into wins, having only taken three points in six of their 16 games. Four defeats shows a rather pragmatic approach despite their squad showing a huge amount of attacking quality. Peru have lost seven and only drawn three, suggesting they are much more all or nothing having lost their last two to Colombia and 4-3 to Chile; this one should be a really interesting match up.

There is no Sergio Aguero for Argentina in this game because of a broken rib suffered in a car accident last week. It also ruled him out of Manchester City’s victory at Chelsea last week and could see him sidelined for two months. Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi are on stand by, but Messi is the man many expect to lead Argentina to victory in this one. He is well placed to be first goal scorer at 12/5 with Betfair and could be the difference in the result as Argentina’s top goalscorer in the campaign with four goals.

 

But the records suggest this will be a tight game and it could take a while for Argentina to press home their advantage. They will get chances, but Sampaoli must set them up in a system that works to exploit Peru’s weaknesses. Peru may find it tough to break down the hosts, and later in the game the chances of an Argentina game will grow. A second half victory seems very well priced at 3/1 given a good stake, and 2-0 also appears to be a realistic scoreline at 6/1. It does not feel like this one is set to be a classic, and it could come down to the quality of Messi to break the deadlock and take Argentina above Peru and into fourth place.

Key battle: Sergio Peña vs Javier Mascherano

Granada midfielder Peña will make his fourth appearance for Peru in this clash, and the 22-year-old will be their chief creator in midfield. His dribbling ability will make him a real threat and it will be Mascherano’s job to keep him contained.

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Peru are a rather attacking team and with Watford star Andre Carillo, talisman, captain and top scorer Paolo Guerrero up front alongside Jefferson Farfan, Peru may be able to cause trouble. But as mentioned above, they will find it tough to break a side which has conceded just 15 goals in qualification so far and a big reason for that has been Mascherano’s performances.

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