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Preview: Morocco vs. Argentina - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's international friendly between Morocco and Argentina, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Argentina will be looking to get back to winning ways against Morocco in their final official friendly before this summer's Copa America.

Despite the return of Lionel Messi to their ranks, La Albiceleste suffered a surprise 3-1 loss to Venezuela last week and need to respond in Tangier on Tuesday evening.


Morocco

Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia in action during his side's international friendly with Ukraine in May 2018© Reuters

Morocco have already achieved their target of reaching this summer's Africa Cup of Nations finals, doing so with a game to spare.

The Atlas Lions, who won over many neutral supporters with their performances at last year's World Cup, finished top of their qualifying group and are now waiting to see who they will face in the finals.

Friday's trip to already-eliminated Malawi therefore had very little meaning, other than giving Herve Renard a chance to experiment ahead of this summer.

The goalless draw at the 40,000-seater Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe hardly set the pulses racing, though it did at least ensure that Morocco could not be caught by Cameroon in top spot.

Morocco are now unbeaten in seven matches since losing to Iran and Portugal at the World Cup - a run that started with a spirited 2-2 draw against Spain in Kaliningrad eight months ago.

Despite making mass changes to his side against Malawi, Renard's charges still dominated proceedings and should have come away with all three points, Rashid Alioui hitting the frame of the goal three times in a game marred by late crowd trouble.

The visit of Argentina will present a far tougher test, though, and with the days ticking down until the Africa Cup of Nations, this will give Renard another chance to see how his side cope up against some of the best players in the world.

Recent form: WWDWWD


Argentina

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni picture during the friendly against Venezuela on March 22, 2019© Reuters

Friday's friendly with Venezuela may have marked the return of star man Messi, making his first international appearance in close to a year since last summer's World Cup exit to France, but the game ended in huge disappointment for Argentina.

Messi was unable to provide much inspiration as his side fell to a 3-1 loss in Madrid, scoring their only goal through Lautaro Martinez an hour into the match.

To make matters worse for Argentina, Messi picked up a knock and will now play no part against Morocco this week, much to the dismay of the opposition side's manager.

Last summer's disappointing World Cup exit, which saw La Albiceleste scrape through to the knockout rounds before being eliminated by France in the last 16, cost Jorge Sampaoli his job.

The arrival of Lionel Scaloni has coincided with Messi's return, but there is not exactly a feel-good factor about the South American giants ahead of the Copa America, with legendary former player Diego Maradona not holding back at the weekend when ripping into his national side's current crop.

The 1986 World Cup winner described Argentina's display against Venezuela as a "horror" show, and the pressure is now on Scaloni to get things right in this second spring friendly.

Back-to-back wins over Mexico will only go so far to restoring supporters' faith in the national side. They quite simply have to put on a show on Tuesday if they are to gather any sort of momentum ahead of their Copa opener against Colombia on June 15.

Recent form: DWLWWL


Team News

Lionel Messi in Argentina training on March 20, 2019© Reuters

Messi will sit out this match because of a groin problem that has forced him back to club side Barcelona ahead of schedule. That has left the Moroccan Football Federation unhappy as they were promised a full-strength Argentina.

Paulo Dybala is expected to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday, with Scaloni expected to name a more experienced side following his experimental XI against Venezuela.

Watford's Roberto Pereyra is also in contention to start in attack, playing just off Martinez following the Inter Milan striker's goal last time out.

Elsewhere, Juan Foyth, Leandro Paredes and Nicolas Tagliafico are all in contention to start at the Stade Ibn Batouta.

In terms of the hosts, AZ star Oussma Idrissi made his debut against Malawi just a few days after being cleared by FIFA, having switched allegiance from the Netherlands.

Idrissi is expected to retain his place in the side this week, while Ayoub El Kaabi has netted two in two for Hebei China Fortune this season and will likely lead the line again.

Morocco possible starting lineup:
Munir, El Hajjam, Abdelhamid, Banoun, Baadi, Ait Bennasser, Bourabia, Hadraf, Hafidi, Idrissi, El Kaabi

Argentina possible starting lineup:
Armani; Montiel, Foyth, Mercado, Lisando Martinez, Tagliafico; Lo Celso, Paredes; Dybala, Pereyra, Lautaro Martinez


Head To Head

Morocco and Argentina have met on just two previous occasions, most recently in a friendly 15 years ago.

Cristian Gonzalez scored the only goal of the game early in the second half to earn La Albiceleste a narrow victory.

A decade before that, Maradona was among the scorers from the penalty spot as Argentina ran out 3-1 winners in another international friendly.


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We say: Morocco 1-1 Argentina

Both sides are gearing up for busy summers, but one team is in better form than the other. Argentina have not had the best of years and could do with a morale-boosting victory on Tuesday, though Morocco will be confident of taking something from the game as their opponents are again without their undisputed star player.


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Argentina's Lionel Messi during the match against Croatia on June 21, 2018
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