Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has urged his squad to step up to Lionel Messi’s level when his side take on Venezuela on Friday night.
Scaloni’s men will play their first international since November when they take on their South American rivals. Friday’s game is part one of a double header, with Argentina then travelling to face Morocco on Tuesday evening.
Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time since the World Cup in Russia and technical director Cesar Luis Menotti claims he is struggling with “emotional fatigue”.
He said: “It scares me that Messi plays. I see him emotionally fatigued between the Champions League and the national team. I see him very tired. He has a lot of obligations and with a lot of emotional baggage, a lot of responsibilities at his feet.”
However, Messi looks set to win his 129th cap with Scaloni unable to call upon the services of Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
Scaloni told reporters: ”It is a joy that Messi returns. I have to try to have the team accompany him and ensure he has the best of himself. Hopefully with the return of Messi the team will be strengthened.
“We hope Messi can bring the best out of his team-mates. We need them to give something extra so we can be a great team.
“We want them to realise that they are great players and that they need to step up so Argentina can return to the level that it once had in the past. It’s not Messi who has to step up.”
Argentina are 1.33 to win, the draw is 4.75, while Venezuela are 8.50 to secure a shock win.