Will he or won’t he play? That’s the talk heading into the second matchday of Group D at the Copa America, where the soccer world waits on the status of superstar Lionel Messi ahead of Argentina’s match against Panama on Friday night.
La Albiceleste have the chance to evaluate all their options after a group-opening 2-1 victory over defending Copa champion Chile. They are a heavy favorite to win this game and coach Gerardo Martino also has an embarrassment of riches _ the ability to choose between starting Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero even with Messi sidelined is a headache coaches would gladly suffer.
On the other side is Chile, determined to bounce back against Bolivia after losing to its continental rival. A draw would not eliminate La Rojo if Argentina wins, but having three points going into their final group match would keep their fate in their hands in terms of advancing.
In this edition of the Fan XT Copa America DFS, the player is presented with a riddle. It is impossible to select Messi, his teammate and midfielder Angel Di Maria and Chile’s irrepressible Alexis Sanchez in any lineup. It’s arguably the most challenging lineup build in the group stages of Copa America, until the teams play their final group matches.
These picks cover the matches for June 10, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the Copa America tournament.
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero, Argentina ($7,310). Salary cap flexibility for the front of this lineup starts between the sticks, and Romero is the pick over Chile’s Claudio Bravo here. Both keepers have the chance to post clean sheets, and while Romero may face a tougher top opposing striker in Panama’s Blas Perez, Argentina is going to hold possession and limit his chances.
Defenders: Gabriel Mercardo, Argentina ($7,280). The least-expensive player on Argentina’s back line, Mercado had a solid game in the win over Chile. Expect more of the same with the hopes La Albiceleste post a clean sheet and pad their goal differential.
Gonzalo Jara, Chile ($7,060), Felipe Baloy, Panama ($7,060) and Luis Henriquez, Panama ($7,020). These pick follow the same reasoning in selecting Mercado _ quality defenders on the cheap that provides flexibility for midfield and striker picks. In the case of Henriquez, this is trying to be clever by one half – he either starts and maybe Panama doesn’t let the match get out of hand, or he enters as a substitute with the game out of reach and not much damage occurs.
Midfielders: Angel Di Maria, Argentina ($10,750). What La Albiceleste showed in their win over Chile is that no team in the Copa America field is faster in transitioning from defense to offense, and Di Maria is the reason why. Both of Argentina’s goals came following midfield giveaways, and there’s every reason to believe Di Maria will get those types of chances against Panama.
Ever Banega, Argentina ($8,940). Banega proved to be quite the playmaking partner with Di Maria, assisting on the first goal before turning scorer off a feed from Di Maria on the second. The performance likely secured his spot in Argentina’s starting XI for this match, and he becomes a slightly better value pick than Chile’s Arturo Vidal given the opponent.
Arturo Vidal, Chile ($9,310). Even if Banega enters this match a better value, Vidal may be the more indispensable player of the two given Chile’s need to defeat Bolivia. He had a good match against Argentina, expect the Bayern Munich man to have a better one this time around.
Gary Medel, Chile ($7,750). Chile is likely to have more possession and chase the match less, which means Medel’s distribution can very easily influence the outcome of this contest. He also scored a goal against Bolivia in last year’s Copa America, so the threat of him adding to it exists.
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez, Chile ($10,440). Sanchez did everything against Argentina except score a goal. All the secondary points he gets _ shots and shots on goal and potential assists on corner kicks _ makes him arguably a better value pick when compared to the question marks surrounding Messi’s availability, especially in a match where Martino can afford to bring him in off the bench as either a spark or just to get him some minutes to be match-fit.
Blas Perez, Panama ($7,040). On the surface, this pick looks completely counterintuitive given the selection of Romero in goal. But in order to get as many playmakers on the field as possible in this lineup, concessions at the back line were needed. In the case of Perez, he is the last (as in cheapest) option among forwards in this match day with the potential to score goals. He had a brace in the win over Bolivia and while Argentina’s defense is undeniably tougher, Perez is one goal from tying Luis Tejada atop Panama’s all-time scoring list.