Messi & Ronaldo To Star In Friendly Goalfest
Portugal v Argentina
Argentina take on Portugal in a glamour fixture at Old Trafford which has predictably been overshadowed by the Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi debate.
Does the term ‘friendly’ exist when these two are on opposing sides?
After suffering a painful 1-0 defeat in extra-time of the World Cup final against Germany, Argentina have recovered well, gaining a measure of revenge on the Germans in their next game when then inflicted a 4-2 defeat on the World Cup winners in Dussledorf less than six weeks later.
They’ve also crushed Hong Kong 7-0 but lost 2-0 to bitter rivals Brazil prior to that and have now claimed victories in 11 of their past 13 games. This will be their second outing on English soil in less than a week after they came from behind to defeat Croatia 2-1 at Upton Park last Wednesday.
Messi scored the winner from the spot in London last weekend, a third goal in two games giving him 26 for his last 29 international appearances and a 45th goal in 96 caps for his country.
Portugal picked up a vital 1-0 win over Armenia last Friday night in Faro-Loule to move second, just a point behind leaders Denmark in Group I of the European Championship qualifiers. Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game for the hosts to make the Real Madrid forward the record scorer in the European Championship football with his 23rd goal in qualifying and the finals combined one ahead of both Turkey’s Hakan Sukur and Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson.
The reigning World Player of the Year also grabbed the only goal of their previous game against Denmark in Copenhagen after they’d suffered a shock home defeat to Albania in their first group game.
Ronaldo has now scored 52 times for the national team in 122 outings.
A host of players who ply their trade in England are expected to line out for the Argentines with Spurs’ Federico Fazio, Sunderland’s Santiago Vergini and Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta likely to be included in the back four. Angel Di Maria should also start on the ground he plays club football while Sergio Aguero will lead the line.
Ex-Chelsea pair Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho could line out again here after returning to the international fold for the win over Armenia. Winger Nani is also in line for a return to action at Old Trafford for the first time since leaving Manchester United on loan this summer.
Head to Head
The only meeting between these two sides came almost four years ago in Geneva, Di Maria opened the scoring for Argentina inside the opening quarter of an hour before, Ronaldo, somewhat inevitably equalised. Not to be outdone, and perhaps even more inevitably, Messi then scored the winner from the spot in the last minute to add even more spice to this battle of the modern greats.
The World Cup finalists are clear favourites at 10/11 here with the Portuguese made big outsiders at 3/1. Despite an underwhelming run of results that have seen Portugal only scoring three times in their last four games they still look overpriced to me and the 15/8 on draw no bet is decent insurance while the 20/21 on more than 2.5 goals hitting the net is well worth a gamble too in a game where the sides will be eager to put on a show and the world’s two best players will be eager to show exactly why they are seen as just that.