Hammer Balbuena set for Messi battle as Paraguay take on Argentina



Fabian Balbuena and Paraguay face the task of stopping Lionel Messi when they return to the pitch to tackle Argentina in their second Copa America fixture tonight.

The West Ham United defender and his fellow countrymen will be eager to make up for lost points after letting a two-goal lead slip before drawing 2-2 with guest entrants Qatar in their opening Group B match.

Argentina will also be desperate for the victory at the Estadio Governador Magalhaes Pinto in Belo Horizonte after losing 2-0 to Colombia in their own opening game, despite boasting the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in attack.

Balbuena, who was part of Paraguay's squad at both the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, appearing in a group-stage fixture with the United States at the latter, will miss Paraguay’s final Group B fixture against Colombia through suspension if he is booked against Argentina, having been shown a yellow card late in the Qatar match.

After Wednesday’s clash with Messi and company, Colombia will be Paraguay’s third and final group-stage opponents in Salvador on Sunday 23 June.

The top two finishers in each of the three groups, plus the two best third-place teams, will go through to the quarter-finals.

Paraguay are seeking their third South American title, having won the tournament in 1953 and 1979.

Balbuena's battle with Messi will be broadcast live in the UK by Premier Sports 1, which is available to view via Sky channel 412 and Virgin TV channel 551, from 1.25am on Thursday 20 June.