Ecuador vs Argentina

A World Cup finals without the presence of Messi seems preposterous, but there is a real chance the Barcelona legend will not feature in Russia next summer. Argentina have clumsily rumbled through qualification in South America, collecting 25 points compared to Brazil’s haul of 38. Scoring goals has been the central issue for Messi and Co., and a goal difference of plus one has placed Argentina on the brink of disaster.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (R) takes  part in a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires on October 7, 2017 ahead of a 2018 FIFA World Cup South American qualifier football match against Ecuador to be held in Quito on October 10.  / AFP PHOTO / ALEJ

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Six nations remain in the mix for a chance to make it to the finals, but Ecuador have already been eliminated after just falling short of the mark. However, they did avoid defeat in 10 of their qualification matches and will be no pushover for their illustrious and desperate opponents. The home venue of Quito is at high altitude, and Argentina have suffered there in the past, with little oxygen to sustain an empowered display. Argentina have lost two of their past three CONMEBOL matches in the capital city, with Ecuador taking advantage of the climate and geography.

Tittle here,  The visitors will hope the hosts will be disinterested in a tie that means nothing to them in technical terms, but Ecuador will not lie down with the opportunity to embarrass and humble Argentina. A victory would be remembered for generations to come.”Argentina have lacked a top class centre back, for example, since the retirement of Roberto Ayala a decade ago – and since then they have rarely looked like a fully coherent team.”Instead, they have been dependent on flashes of individual genius, mostly from Messi.”The team that hauled itself to the World Cup final three years ago was heavily reliant on the inspiration of Messi and the grit of Javier Mascherano.”One of the problems of this campaign is that Messi has missed 8 matches – in which Argentina managed just 7 points.”Another, a constant in recent times, has been the lack of defensive pace. And the biggest problem of all has been the nerves that can hit a traditional giant when it is in danger of failing so badly.

Ecuador

Ecuador have not been in good form of late, and that has led to several changes at several levels of the team. Friday’s loss against Chile buried any chance Ecuador might have had of reaching the 2018 World Cup, so the team has nothing to play for in this game against Argentina. But manager Jorge Celico – who was appointed a few weeks ago to replace Gustavo Quinteros – has said the team wants to end the qualifying campaign with a win over Argentina. They might be motivated to win, but their recent form has not been impressive since Los Amarillos have lost their past five matches. In fact, they have secured only eight points in their last 13 games. Those numbers would not strike fear on any team, but Ecuador have looked rather decent at home thanks to four wins, one draw and three losses overall. They have the altitude factor going their way since Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa sits at almost 3,000 meters above sea level. Can they take advantage of it?

Argentina

Argentina are considered one of the best teams in the world. However, they are quite complicated on the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers, and they currently sit sixth with 25 points. If the Qualifiers ended today, they would be out of the 2018 World Cup. Therefore, winning against Ecuador is imperative if they want to keep themselves alive. A win would grant them a playoff berth, and a win could even send them straight to Russia. And while they could easily be considered favourites thanks to an impressive collection of talent – led by Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria – nothing suggests they should be treated as such. Jorge Sampaoli is yet to win an official game with La Albiceleste, and the team is currently riding a four-game winless streak with three draws and one defeat. To make things even more complicated, they have not won in Quito since 2001. Can they secure the three points when it matters the most?