Chile v Argentina: Aguero relieved to welcome back Messi


Sergio Aguero admits it is a relief to have Lionel Messi back as Argentina prepare for a crucial World Cup qualifier with Chile in Santiago.

The captain was forced to sit out the opening four rounds of South American qualifying as a result of the knee injury he sustained with Barcelona.

Manchester City star Aguero was himself sidelined for the previous two games - a 1-1 draw with Brazil and 1-0 victory over Colombia - which saw Argentina kick-start their campaign to reach the 2018 finals in Russia after earlier losing to Ecuador and drawing with Paraguay.

And Aguero has welcomed the return of the Ballon d'Or holder to the ranks as Argentina look for a win which would see them climb above Chile in the standings.

"It's a relief that Leo is with us," he told Ole. "It's always great to play with him. We consider him a crucial player.

"It's a tough situation because Argentina is accustomed to being at the top, but each time it's more difficult because there are many countries that are improving."

Chile took seven points from their first four games to move into fifth in the South American standings, which are currently led by Ecuador, who sit on a maximum of 12 points from their opening four matches.

The Copa America winners have endured a turbulent few months, having lost 3-0 to Uruguay in their last qualifier before head coach Jorge Sampaoli stepped down in January after weeks of tension with the Football Federation of Chile.

Former striker Juan Antonio Pizzi was named as his replacement and raised some eyebrows with his first selection, calling up 18-year-old Universidad Catolica striker Jeisson Vargas and Palestino full-back Felipe Campos.

"The players who have been called up for this first list are most suited to the two games ahead," he told the media on Monday. "I know there are some who, in quotation marks, were 'not considered' by the media. But we've done the evaluation and we believe they can perform.

"At the moment, Chile have many features that make them unique. What we'll do is try to add some things as we go along. There are a lot of virtues to this team which we value."

Chile's loss to Uruguay hit the morale of the squad hard but they have not suffered a defeat at home in competitive matches since losing to Argentina in a World Cup qualifier back in October 2012.

The pressure remains on the shoulders of Gerard Martino, meanwhile, with Argentina having won just one of their last five games and facing a battle to reach the 2018 finals.

Chile and Argentina played out a 0-0 draw in their last meeting - at the final of the Copa America - before the host nation ran out 4-1 winners in the penalty shootout.