Even though Madrid has been slowly emptying out for the Easter break, around 2,000 fans turned up to watch the national team at work yesterday, in preparation for this evening’s friendly against Argentina. Messi has been given the green light to play. A Spain vs Argentina without Messi just wouldn’t have been the same, because this clash, like the previous meeting, is a great chance to gauge how are shaping up with the World Cup around the corner. Spain passed the first ‘stress test’ in Düsseldorf. Tonight’s will only be worthwhile if Messi plays, moreover, if he joins forces in attack with Higuaín, an old familiar face who has been furthering his career brilliantly since leaving Madrid. What we don’t know is who will start for Spain. It’s a closely guarded secret – one which Lopetegui always keeps tight to his chest on the eve of important matches.
Chance for Chelsea's Marcos Alonso to debut
Whoever gets to play, it would be nice to see Marcos Alonso III given a run-out. I had some dealings with the first of the clan to represent La Roja, Marcos Alonso Imaz, or Marquitos as he was known in football circles – a gritty, enthusiastic defender – and Di Stéfano’s trusty sidekick out on the pitch and off it down at the racetrack. I had even more dealings with his son, Marcos Alonso Peña, a fabulous striker from more recent times. Both were internationals with Spain. If Lopetegui brings on Marcos Alonso Mendoza, Marquitos’ grandson in tonight’s game, it will be the first time in history that three generations of players from the same family have starred at full international level. Little more than an anecdote in the great scheme of things, but it would be lovely to see. And of course, the young Marcos has already demonstrated that he is more than capable of holding his own at international level.
Messi held to ransom
But what we really will be taking note of will be Messi and La Roja. In his book, which is soon to hit the shops, Sampaoli notes that for Messi “the World Cup will be like having a gun put to his head”. Back in Argentina, they demand that he wins it if he is to be venerated on the same level as Maradona, and not seen as an imposter. Messi revels in his football with Barça but seems to be overwhelmed with the national team – and that’s why back home he is looked on with suspicion. Tonight’s game is a good test for him too because all eyes will be on him and it’s another good trial for Lopetegui’s side. I’m sure we’re in for a great game - the Wanda Metropolitano’s baptism as a venue for the national team. That's a pretty strong basis for a game which promises to deliver a lot.