Injured striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia were included in the preliminary, 35-player Argentina squad for the World Cup in Russia on Monday. Also, four players with few or no games for the national team were picked. The final 23-man squad will be announced next Monday. Aguero has not played for Manchester City since March because of a left knee injury and had surgery in April.
Biglia broke two vertebrae in April, missed three AC Milan games, and was injured again on Sunday after an Atalanta player hit him in the operated area. Coach Jorge Sampaoli considers Aguero and Biglia as likely starters in the World Cup for the opening match against Iceland in Moscow on June 16. The two will be closely followed when the squad gathers.
Lionel Messi, the captain, was confirmed to play his fourth World Cup. Aguero’s likely replacement is Gonzalo Higuain, but the Juventus scorer has not showed the same efficiency for Argentina. Inter Milan top scorer and captain Mauro Icardi and Racing’s Lautaro Martinez were also picked. Striker Paulo Dybala, also of Juventus, was included despite recently saying it was difficult to play with Messi.
Rodrigo Battaglia of Sporting Lisbon, yet to be capped, and Guido Pizarro of Sevilla were possible substitutes in case Biglia does not fly to Russia. River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani, a fan favorite, convinced Sampaoli and was included. Manchester United’s Sergio Romero, a starter in the two last World Cups, has not played much in England.
Racing midfielder Ricardo Centurion has been called as a possible substitute for Angel Di Maria because of his speed. Torino defender Cristian Ansaldi received a spot after Sevilla’s Gabriel Mercado was injured. Mercado will be evaluated by Argentina doctors. Nine of Sampaoli’s squad reached the 2014 World Cup final won by Germany: Messi, Romero, Rojo, Biglia, Mascherano, Perez, Aguero, Di Maria, and Higuain.
Argentina is in Group D with Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia.
Argentina: Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres), Franco Armani (River Plate).
Defenders: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Federico Fazio (Roma), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon) Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino).
Midfielders: Angel Di Maria, Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Leandro Paredes (Zenit St. Petersburg), Diego Perotti (Roma), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Enzo Perez (River Plate), Ricardo Centurion (Racing), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Guido Pizarro (Sevilla), Rodrigo Battaglia (Sporting Lisbon), Cristian Pavon and Pablo Perez (Boca Juniors).
Strikers: Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Lautaro Martinez (Racing), Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan).