There are few changes to Argentina’s squad for this month’s FIFA fixtures, the last chance to warm up before November’s World Cup kicks off.
That’s hardly a shock. A radical change is not required. This is a side unbeaten for more than three years, most recently beating European champions Italy at Wembley in June before beating Estonia 5-0.
But there’s a bit of tinkering around the edges, and it’s Premier League-related.
If there’s a position up for grabs in Qatar, it’s that of left centre-back. Tottenham’s Cristian Romero is the undisputed first choice at right flank and has made the position his own over the past 16 months.
At his side is Nico Otamendi, the former Manchester City defender who, at 34, has arguably seen better days.
Now at Benfica, Otamendi could be under pressure for his place – and even if he stays with the team he faces a ban and will have to be substituted at the end of the World Cup.
Marcos Senesi had played his way into the race with his form in the Dutch league. He made his debut for Argentina in June when he came on as a substitute against Estonia in the last half-hour.
He must certainly have hoped that moving to the Premier League would improve his chances. Bournemouth might not have been the wrong place. But it was definitely the wrong timing.
With no pre-season, no time to get to know his new colleagues – and defending is always a team effort – Senesi was thrown straight in at the deep end against the in-form Arsenal.
And after a tough defeat came the journey to a Liverpool side aching from their own loss to Manchester United.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool came to Bournemouth like a wounded blow and after a 9-0 result Senesni could look back on a bloody, traumatic start to life in the Premier League. And to make matters worse, he has now lost his place in Argentina’s squad.
Meanwhile, Lisandro Martinez is there – obviously because he supported Otamendi for a while and started in two World Cup qualifiers earlier this year.
Arriving in the Premier League like Senesi from Holland, Martinez also had a difficult start with deeply disappointing losses to Brighton and Brentford.
But he has two major advantages over Senesi. He came earlier, with time to fall asleep – and with a coach who knows him well. He also plays for a far better team.
Manchester United have dug deep under Erik Ten Hag and produced a string of morale-boosting results. Luck smiled on Lisandro Martinez in the crunch game against Liverpool.
Darwin Nunez’s suspension took away a physical striker who would have tried to engage the centre-back in a fight. And David De Gea saved him from an own goal – which would hardly have been his fault but would have drawn some negative publicity and increased the pressure.
So far, his lack of height hasn’t been a big issue. Martinez has defended efficiently and as his confidence grows he is showing more of his left-footed ability to play the ball out of defense – almost certainly the main reason Ten Hag spent so much on his acquisition.
Doing all of this for Manchester United gives Lisandro Martinez a profile bigger than anything he has enjoyed before. It could help him overtake Otamendi on the home stretch of the Qatar road.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6149557/man-utd-lisandro-martinez-world-cup/ Man Utd’s Lisandro Martinez is ready to play for Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar after adjusting to life in the Premier League