Argentina and Chile both face defining World Cup Qualifiers over the next seven days that will determine whether Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez feature for their respective countries at next summer’s tournament in Russia.
Fifth-placed Argentina host fourth-in-the-table Peru in Buenos Aires on October 6, before a tricky-looking final game at altitude in Ecuador five days later.
Matchday 17 and 18 fixtures
Friday, Oct 6: Chile v Ecuador and Argentina v Peru (00.30)
Wednesday, Oct 11: Brazil v Chile and Ecuador v Argentina (00.30)
However, given their recent patchy form, neither the 2014 World Cup finalists nor the reigning Copa America champions will be confident of competing at the global showpiece event.
Argentina – who sit fourth in the latest FIFA world rankings – head into their key double header having won just two of their last nine qualifiers and in danger of missing out on a World Cup finals for the first time since 1970.
The worry for Argentina, however, is their next opponents have won their last three matches in a row, a run that has seen in-form Peru move into the fourth and final automatic qualifying position for next summer’s finals.
Not only that, but Argentina then face a final-day visit to Ecuador who, despite losing at home to Peru last time out, possess an intimidating record in Quito.
And the Albiceleste have also tended to struggle when playing at altitude, with La Tri’s ground in the capital situated 9,127 feet above sea level.
Sanchez and Co, though, maybe taking on a second-string Brazil side next week that have already sealed top spot in the CONMEBOL standings, so offering up the prospect of the Selecao inadvertently helping Chile into the play-offs at arch rivals Argentina’s expense.
Either way, neither team should be fearing that prospect given New Zealand failed to pick up a point at last summer’s Confederations Cup and lost 9-3 on aggregate to Mexico in the play-off to qualify for the last World Cup.