Argentina vs. Peru: What to Watch For in Friday's 2014 World Cup Qualifier
South American football powerhouse Argentina will host reeling Peru in a low-stakes 2014 World Cup qualifying match on Friday in Buenos Aires.
La Blanquirroja have already been eliminated from contention but will look to spoil Argentina's night in front of their raucous supporters. Peru is certainly talented enough to surprise La Albiceleste, playing the world power to a 1-1 draw in Lima 13 months ago.
The underdogs will have a massive mountain to climb, though.
Here, we'll break down what to watch for in Friday's match.
How Will Argentina Fare Without Lionel Messi?
The world's top player, Lionel Messi was set to join the Argentina national squad for their final two World Cup qualifiers this week, but a thigh injury suffered last month has him in recovery mode at the moment.
Messi has scored twice in three World Cup qualifying appearances for Argentina in 2013, but he was shut out by Peru in their most recent meeting in September 2012. Despite his lackluster performance, it goes without saying that La Albiceleste were more dangerous with the 26-year-old captain running the show.
With over 80 career appearances for Argentina's senior team under his belt since 2005, the Barcelona superstar's experience is every bit as critical as his scoring ability.
But with Argentina already having earned a berth in the World Cup next summer, Messi's absence won't have any long-term repercussions for Alejandro Sabella's unit.
Will Peru End Their Losing Skid?
Forget winning, Peru head coach Sergio Markarian would be jubilant with a draw on Friday night.
Which side will win?
La Blanquirroja have dropped their last three qualifying matches dating back to last June and have been outscored by a combined 7-3 in those losses to Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Argentina haven't lost a World Cup qualifying match in two years.
For Peru, the breakdown has come on the defensive end in their recent defeats. Markarian's squad had conceded just one goal over their previous three qualifiers before the streak began. Messi's absence definitely benefits Peru defensively, but can they keep Argentina's other threats off the board and change their ways against a quality team?
It'll certainly be a tall task.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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