Sergio Aguero Manchester City
The onus will be on Sergio Aguero to shine in the absence of Lionel MessiReuters

Argentina begin their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign without their talisman and captain Lionel Messi, but the Albiceleste will be confident of making a winning start in their match against Ecuador in Buenos Aires on Thursday.

After that disappointing loss in the final of the Copa America to Chile, it all gets serious again with the South American qualifiers, and Argentina will know the importance of starting off on the front foot, with or without Messi, who is still recovering from a long-term injury.

The key to picking up wins in the next two matches for Argentina will be the ability of Sergio Aguero stepping up. The striker is coming off from scoring five goals against Newcastle United at the weekend, and manager Gerardo Martino will be hoping he brings that form to the national team as well.

"[With no Messi] it doesn't represent a bigger responsibility for me because I'm doing good things for my club and perhaps everyone's focus is on me," Aguero told Clarin. "I need to take advantage of the good spell I'm going through. I just try to help the team and do things the best I can."

Another player Argentina have a lot of hopes on is Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, who will be expected to find some goals as well, especially since Martino has chosen not to select Gonzalo Higuain.

"We had the chance to call a player like Dybala," Martino told Ole. "We did it so he can get himself familiarised with the team.

"He's a player with enormous potential, he's become a star in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Paulo is a good lad, when the head is right it means there is more chance of good things happening naturally."

For Ecuador, who will be without their star man Enner Valencia, this match is about finding their rhythm after a disappointing Copa America, where they failed to make it to the knockout stages.

"Ecuador is recovering from the disappointments and we truly believe we can be competitive and fight for qualification again," Ecuador manager Gustavo Quinteros said.

Where to Watch Live

Argentina vs Ecuador is scheduled for a 9 pm local time (5.30 am IST, 1 am BST, 8 pm ET) start, with live coverage in India on Sony Six. Livsports will also provide the live streaming option online.

Viewers in Canada, USA, Middle East and North Africa can watch the World Cup qualifier live on Bein Sports, with the live stream option on Bein Sports Connect.

Audience in Argentina and Ecuador can watch the match live on TYC Sports. Viewers in Singapore can watch the action live on 111 Mio Sports.

SuperSport will show the match live in South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, while the action can also be live streamed on SuperSport Live.

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