Barcelonas serial hat-trick scorer Lionel Messi will be looking to take up where he last left off as Argentina captain when he leads his country against Ecuador in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Saturday. Messi scored his first and only hat-trick for Argentina in a 3-1 friendly win away to Switzerland in February so pasting over cracks in coach Alejandro Sabellas defence.
Right back Pablo Zabaleta pointed to the imbalance of an Argentina side with a world class group of forwards but a rearguard short of choice in full backs and quality in central defenders. To have Leo (Messi),Pipa (Gonzalo Higuain) and Kun (Sergio Aguero) gives you maximum security, Zabaleta said.
Argentina meet Ecuador at the River Plate stadium as co-leaders of the South American group with Uruguay and Venezuela,who meet at the Centenario in Montevideo. After four matches,the trio have seven points although Copa America holders Uruguay have a game in hand.
Uruguay,ranked third by FIFA,will not take Venezuela lightly having paid a price when they were beaten 3-0 at home in 2004 by the regions one-time whipping boys. The top four teams in the three-year,16-match qualifying campaign go through to the 2014 finals in Brazil with the fifth-placed team playing off against an Asian nation. Brazil are exempt from qualifying as hosts.