Lionel Messi remains a big injury doubt as Argentina begin their quest for a first major title in 23 years with a marquee matchup against Chile in the Copa America Centenario on Monday. This game at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara could very well be a rehearsal for the final, considering these two teams are the favourites for the title.
Chile, of course, beat Argentina on penalties to lift the Copa America title last year, and while this Copa America Centenario is seen as more of a ceremonial tournament, one team desperate to lift the trophy are Argentina.
Despite having arguably the best player in the world in Messi and one of the most envied attacking lineups, Argentina have flattered to deceive when it has come to the biggest stage. Having reached the final in their last two major tournaments – the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Copa America – Argentina froze a little, with their trophy hopes vanishing as a result.
They now have a glorious opportunity to put that "haven't won a title in a long time" talk to bed, with Messi and co. the clear favourites for this title. In Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria, Argentina have a quartet capable of scoring goals left, right and centre, but the most important part of that foursome looks likely to miss out, at least from the start.
Messi picked up a back injury in an international friendly against Honduras on May 27, and the Barcelona forward is still struggling to recover from the problem.
"We're going to wait until after [Sunday night]'s training session," Martino said at his pre-match press conference on Sunday, when asked if Messi would play from the start.
"The first thing we'll do is listen to the team doctor, who is the most important voice in this sort of situations, then Leo himself because he's the one who knows how he feels.
"And after that I'll give him my own perspective in respects to the sporting situation, but the player is the only one who knows how much pain he has."
The likelihood is that Messi, who only just came back to the USA after appearing in a tax fraud trial back in Spain, will start the match on the bench and come on if necessary. Messi's likely replacement, if Martino decides against starting with the superstar, is Nicolas Gaitan, who the manager believes can have a big impact.
"When you compare them (Gaitan with Messi), it seems as if Gaitan has to play just like Leo, and that's putting a lot of pressure on him," Martinez added. "Nico only has to play the way he plays and nothing else.
"Due to the circumstances, he has to replace Leo and I'm not hoping he does anything just like Leo, but I do hope he shows the conditions he's got. I think he's a very complete player for any of the two positions on the wing and we understand he's the ideal replacement for Leo. But I want to be clear, he only replaces him by name and we hope he plays the same way he does for Benfica."
Chile do not have too many injury worries, with the only question being if the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez can find their mojo for their country, having fired them to Copa America glory at home last year.
Expected starting XI: Argentina: Romero; Mercado, Otamendi, Funes Mori, Rojo; Fernandez, Mascherano; Gaitan, Banega, Di Maria; Higuain.
Chile: Bravo; Fuenzalida, Medel, Roco, Mena; Aranguiz, Diaz, Vidal; Vargas, Pinilla, Sanchez.