A battle of international titans sees Portugal and Argentina collide at Old Trafford on Tuesday, where Ballon d’Or contenders LionelMessi and Cristiano Ronaldo will once again star as the chief characters.
La Albiceleste come to Manchester as the more fancied outfit following their runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup, where the Portuguese failed to make it past the group stage.
All recent record will be put aside for the one-off friendly fixture, however, with full viewing details and an inspection of the match’s key talking points discussed further ahead.
Ronaldo vs. Messi Reaches Fever Pitch
Following recent claims from Spanish expert Guillem Balague in his new book, the air is more tense than ever between Ronaldo and Messi, two figures who have for many years now competed in the most direct sense.
In the book, Balague is reported by Spanish newspaper SPORT as alleging that Ronaldo’s nickname for Messi is a rather crude one. However, as the Mirror‘s Simon Mullock details, Ronaldo disputes such claims and is seeking to clear the air with his Barcelona foe before Tuesday’s encounter.
It adds yet another sense of spice to their relationship, already lively enough as the main protagonists of La Liga’s El Clasico, but now with a much more personal twist—if certain stories are to be believed.
All the coaches will be concerned about is which one of these football giants can produce the goods on the pitch and claim a morale-boosting victory on neutral soil, although the off-field matters make for an intriguing sideshow.
Argentina’s Home Comforts
Of the two teams facing off this Tuesday, Argentina will undoubtedly be the side feeling most at home in Manchester, a setting which some of those less accustomed to English weather could find upsetting.
Altogether, Gerardo Martino has eight Premier League-based players among his ranks. Angel Di Maria flies a lone flag for Manchester United, Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero and Martin Demichelisrepresent Manchester City, while Erik Lamela and Federico Fazio call Tottenham their home and Santiago Vergini travels slightly south fromSunderland.
In contrast, Portugal have just one player in the English top flight, and even then the prospect of uncapped Southampton stalwart Jose Fontegiving others tips on how to deal with the conditions isn’t promising.
One among Fernando Santos’ team who will feel at home is captain Ronaldo, who once more makes the return to his former Old Traffordstomping ground and is well-versed in such a climate.
It’s a small factor in the grand scheme of things, but a factor that could play in Martino’s favour nonetheless, especially when the great majority of his Premier League stars are all major players at their respective clubs.
Portugal need every edge they can get if they’re to topple the South Americans, but a raft of players largely located on the Iberian Peninsula may struggle to adapt.