The UAE will host Argentina tonight in a friendly at the Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium, in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Argentina are rounding off their 2022 Qatar World Cup preparations tonight with a friendly match against the United Arab Emirates at the Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Lionel Scaloni’s team are one of the favourites to win the tournament which is being held in the Middle East for the very first time. They will want to head to Doha on the back of another good result and performance before the serious action begins.

Playoff heartache

The UAE have only ever qualified for one World Cup in 1990 but the national team came very close to making a second appearance on the world’s biggest stage. They pushed a solid Australia outfit hard in June but lost 2-1 in the playoffs. The Aussies then beat Peru in the playoff final to book their spot at the showpiece.

Since that heartbreaking defeat, the UAE have played two friendlies against Paraguay and Venezuela. But the clash tonight against Argentina will be a special affair not only because the UAE will be up against one of the best players in the world in Lionel Messi, but also they have an opportunity to end the South American’s 35-match unbeaten run.

Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side will be up for this clash and they will be backed by a full house too at the 37,000 seat venue. A positive result will certainly leave confidence high as they head towards 2023. After tonight’s match they will next face Kazakhstan in another friendly on November 19 before preparing for the Gulf Cup of Nations next year. The coach may give starts to the likes of Caio Canedo, Ali Khasif and Khalid Al-Hashemi. Ali Salmeen and Majid Rashid may get a start in midfield while Harib Al-Maazmi could lead the line against.

Meanwhile, the Mess-led Argentinians are preparing for their Group C World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia on November 22. They will also take on Mexico and Poland in the group stage of the competition and are favourites to finish top of the group.

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Argentine's Lionel Messi (centre) and players attend a training camp at the Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA football World Cup.

Scaloni’s side last played back in September where they beat Jamaica 3-0 in a friendly and their last defeat came all the way back in July 2019 when they were beaten by Brazil.

The White and Sky Blues won the Copa America in 2021 and have lifted the coveted World Cup trophy twice. The first was in 1978 and then in 1986. They came runners-up in the 2014 edition while at the last tournament in Russia they could do no better than reaching the round of 16.

Messi's bench role

Everyone inside the Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium will be desperate to watch Messi in action but the 35-year-old Paris-Saint Germain attacker may start on the bench.

Scaloni will get the chance to check the fitness of his players such as Paulo Dybala who has been missing with an injury while Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez could also feature.

The result of this match is not important but Argentina will want to keep their unbeaten run going. More so they will want to put in a solid performance as they gear up for the big kick off in Qatar next week. It is poised to be a fascinating night of action.