On paper, it's hard to bet against Argentina when the South American power takes on Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
The team's roster is absolutely stacked with stars, highlighted by Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain, Paris Saint-Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi and Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta.
And Argentina has been hard to beat in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, winning seven games, drawing two and losing just once. Meanwhile, Bolivia has won just two of its 10 qualifying matches.
So can the Bolivians pull off a shocking upset over Argentina in La Paz? Or will the Argentines continue to assert their will over their South American opponents?
Let's break down this matchup and find out.
When: Tuesday, March 26 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio Hernando Siles, La Paz, Bolivia
Watch: beIN Sport
Streaming: TWC TV (with Time Warner Cable and subscription to beIN Sport)
What They're Saying
Argentina has only lost once in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, but that doesn't mean the Argentines will be taking Bolivia lightly.
As Dermot Corrigan of ESPN notes, the team's best player—okay, okay, the world's best player—Lionel Messi knows just how stiff a challenge his side faces:
Argentina were hammered 6-1 in La Paz in April 2009, when a side coached by Diego Maradona were making hard work of qualifying for the following year's World Cup in South Africa.
Messi told El Mundo Deportivo he could still recall how difficult it had been to play in the high-altitude conditions in La Paz, which is 3,600 metres above sea-level.
"We all know what happened there the last time," Messi said. "It was very hard. The truth is it was terrible because when you sprint on the pitch you cannot recover."
Bolivia Player to Watch: Marcelo Moreno, Forward
Moreno was in fine form for Gremio this season, with 17 goals and five assists in 45 appearances across all competitions for the Brazilian side. He'll need to bring that cutting edge to this game if Bolivia is to earn a point or earn a shocking win.
Argentina Player to Watch: Lionel Messi, Forward
The world's top player has eight goals and four assists in 10 World Cup qualifying games for Argentina. On a squad that carries waves and waves of elite attacking options, Messi stands out.
Perhaps the only answer Bolivia will have for Messi is the La Paz altitude, and even Mother Nature probably can't keep the talented Argentine from scoring. Messi comes into this game red hot—he has seven goals and three assists in his last five games for Argentina and Barcelona.
If Bolivia is to have any chance in this game, it must at least contain Messi or hope he has an off night. But if the Argentine has his way—and he normally does—it will be a long evening for Bolivia.
Which team wins?
The fact that this game is in La Paz should weigh heavily in favor of Bolivia, but that advantage won't be enough to counter the huge difference in talent between these teams. This game will be closer than you might expect—remember, these teams tied 1-1 in November—but Argentina isn't about to lose to Bolivia.
The Argentines win, 2-0.
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