Spain v Argentina Tuesday, 20:30 Live on Sky Sports Football
Spain shaping up nicely
A draw with the reigning world champions is never to be sniffed at ahead of aWorld Cup, and for Spain there were plenty of positives to take from the game against Germany on Friday. The midfield, even deprived of Sergio Busquets, conjured some of the old pass mastery, with Isco especially impressive, while Valencia forward Rodrigo staked his claim for a starting spot in Russia.
"Trying to dominate Germany away from home and for 90 minutes was risky, but that's what we set out to do," said coach Julen Lopetegui, and he must have been pleased with his side's performance, even if they were pegged back by Thomas Müller's strike. Confidence should be high, and a squad that features both young talent and ludicrous experience (Sergio Ramos hit 150 caps in Düsseldorf and Andrés Iniesta is in fine fettle) must be considered among the favourites for glory this summer, even if they are only the 9.00fourth favourites on the Betfair Exchange.
David Silva has left the squad for personal reasons and Gerard Piqué is nursing a knock, and they are unlikely to be the only changes if Lopetegui wants to test options. Saúl, Diego Costa and Marco Asensio are among those pushing for starts.
Messi back for visitors
Argentina saw off Italy in the first leg of their springtime double bill, but it wasn't a particularly memorable occasion: the Etihad was half-empty, Lionel Messi was left out of the side, and the Albiceleste only secured victory with a pair of late strikes, from Éver Banega and Manuel Lanzini. It was the kind of game that made you feel for Jorge Sampaoli, who has admitted he would swap these friendlies for more time on the training ground.
A date with Spain should offer a little more glamour, and unsurprisingly much of the build-up has focused on Messi, supposedly fit again after a hamstring issue. There will be no element of surprise, naturally, but the novelty factor is there - Argentina haven't faced Spain since 2010 - and it will be interesting to see how the mini magician gets on against some of his Barcelona team-mates.
Hosts the team to beat
The South Americans were big winners back in that 2010 match-up, running out 4-1 winners at the Monumental. Messi netted in that one - as he did in a 2-1 Spain victory a year earlier - and his presence would certainly count hugely in Argentina's favour on Tuesday night.
Spain, though, are understandable favourites here. The competition for places is such that those players coming in will be champing at the bit, and La Roja have not lost a game since their departure from Euro 2016. Argentina saved themselves late on in CONMEBOL qualifying but Sampaoli, for all his tactical accumen, is still getting to grips with the squad and there are plenty of question marks remaining.
Nigeria netted four against Argentina in November, and if Spain are anywhere near their bewitching best, even with their so-called second string, they could be value at 2.10.
Costa enjoying home comforts
If Diego Costa is unleashed from the start, he could be the pick at around 2.50 to score at any time. The Brazilian-born forward has made a big impact for Atlético Madrid since returning from his mini sabbatical and will be playing at home: this game takes place at Atleti's Wanda Metropolitano stadium.