Jorge Sampaoli goes back to the drawing board and other Argentina v Croatia tactical battles

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Lionel Messi and Argentina will look to ignite hopes of progression from World Cup 2018’s Group D when they battle Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday.

Here are the tactical battles:

SAMPAOLI’S SHIFTING SANDS

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There was always going to be a reaction to the Iceland stalemate.

Argentine media have reported a change of shape from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2 formation is imminent.

Angel Di Maria is the biggest-name casualty of this move. The 30-year-old had zero shots and dribbles during an ineffectual 74 minutes.

Veteran defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano’s need for greater legs around him should see River Plate’s Enzo Perez start instead of AC Milan’s Lucas Biglia.

MIDFIELD POSER

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Eyebrows were raised against Nigeria when boss Zlatko Dalic decided to utilise star midfielder Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in front of the defence, a role usually left for Internazionale’s Marcelo Brozovic.

This change didn’t equate to faster ball rotation as Croatia made a stumbling – but ultimately successful – start to World Cup 2018.

Expect Brozovic to come in and keep an eye on Barcelona icon Lionel Messi. Modric will then be tasked with creative work, rather than defensive duties.

DYBALA TO BE DENIED

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A clamour is always present when Juventus forward Paulo Dybala is mentioned.

He remains an alluring figure for La Albiceleste, who are yet to see the best of a potential superstar who struck 22 times in 33 Serie A matches last term.

Sampaoli’s likely decision to play two up top should have presented opportunity. But burned by Dybala’s qualifying record of zero goals in eight games and Boca Juniors forward Cristian Pavon’s burgeoning chemistry with Messi, the former mentioned should remain on the bench.

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