Messi and big guns all set to fire at Aviva

NO Maradona in the dugout, more’s the pity, but Argentina will certainly not be lacking in star quality on the pitch when they play the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium next Wednesday.

Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain and Diego Milito are all included in a formidable 24-man squad which will arrive in Dublin tomorrow under the baton of caretaker manager Sergio Batista.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in Beijing yesterday, where he is currently on tour with Barcelona, Messi gave voice to his shock at Maradona’s exit.

“I didn’t want him to go, I believed that he was going to stay,” said Messi before declaring that, nonetheless, he is fully behind Batista, the coach who guided him to Olympic and Under-20 glory in recent years. “It could be a chance to leave things behind and move forward and to confront this new challenge and those on the horizon.”

Despite the disappointment of a crushing defeat to Germany in the World Cup, it had first been announced that Maradona would stay on as national manager but when agreement could not be reached with the Argentinian Football Association over the make-up of his backroom staff, there came a sudden parting of the ways.

In a further twist, it has since emerged that the association is open to Maradona reapplying for the post, which they hope to fill by October, but, since compromise and Maradona have rarely gone hand in hand, it seems an unlikely eventuality.

However, the FAI, as well as Irish players and fans alike, will simply be relieved and excited to know that the South Americans are bringing all their big guns to Dublin for the long-awaited first international match at the Aviva Stadium.

Tickets, priced €40 and €55 for the game, are on sale through ticketmaster.ie, at the Carrolls FAI Umbro stores on Westmoreland Street and Suffolk Street, Dublin and at the stadium itself.

The full Argentina squad for the match, which kick offs off at 7.45pm on Wednesday, is: Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Fernando Gago, Sergio Aguero, Ever Banega, Jesus Datolo, Lionel Messi, Diego Milito, Walter Samuel, Mario Bolatti, Mariano Andujar, Nicolas Burdisso, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Guttierez, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez, Emiliano Insua, Carlos Tevez, Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Romero, Martin Demichelis, Gabriel Heinze.

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