Cesar Luis Menotti would be "afraid" if Lionel Messi was to feature for Argentina against Venezuela in a friendly on Friday.

Messi, 31, is set to make his international return after missing his nation's matches since last year's World Cup in Russia.

The superstar has been in fine form, scoring six goals in his past three matches for Barcelona, including netting a hat-trick against Real Betis.

But Menotti, who coached Argentina to World Cup success in 1978 and is now the country's director of national teams, is worried about Messi's wellbeing.

"I'm afraid that Messi plays," he told FM 94.7.

"I see him with important emotional fatigue between the Champions League and the national team. I see him very tired.

"If he wants to play with Argentina, better."

Argentina will face Venezuela on Friday before taking on Morocco four days later.

Gabriel Jesus said post-World Cup was the most difficult moment of his career, while the Manchester City and Brazil striker insisted his stagnated form is normal.

Jesus endured a rough Russia 2018, with the City star criticised after not scoring a goal throughout the tournament as Brazil lost in the quarter-finals.

Ahead of Brazil's international friendlies against Panama on Saturday and the Czech Republic three days later, Jesus discussed his World Cup woes.

"It weighs nothing on me today, but it was very difficult to assimilate," Jesus told reporters. "My family and friends have helped a lot. 

"I do not live this moment today because of my poor form, but because of the great phase of [City team-mate Sergio] Aguero. 

"When I play I help the team. In the post-Cup I still thought a lot, it was my most difficult moment as a player. But I overcame it, I worked, I conquered my space again. That shook me only at the beginning of the season, has not shaken for a long time."

Jesus hit the ground running at Premier League giants City following his arrival from Palmeiras in 2017 – scoring seven goals in 10 league appearances.

The 21-year-old backed that up with 13 Premier League goals in 29 games as City won the title last season, though he has managed only six goals in 23 for the champions this term.

"I've talked a lot with my family and my friends. I had a very good time in my career and life, I came and got things very fast," Jesus said. "Today I think I had a break and I think it's normal.

"I'm 21, I do not have to rush things. Today I live a phase that I'm a reserve and seeking ownership in my club. I'm looking for a space against a guy who is the club's top scorer, Aguero, who has helped a lot.

"I'm working day by day and trying to recover my space. I had an injury two weeks ago and I was 10 days off. And now coming back, I'm trying to recover, it's a decisive phase, I want to help my team to win the title."

Argentina goalkeeper Juan Musso said it is an "honour" to have Lionel Messi return to the international stage.

Messi has not played for Argentina since last year's World Cup last-16 elimination but the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is back for friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco.

Fresh off his 33rd LaLiga hat-trick, Messi will feature in Friday's clash with Venezuela in Madrid before facing Morocco four days later, and Udinese keeper Musso is relishing his return.

"We're very happy," Musso told reporters. "He trains like the rest of us and for us it's an honour to have him back in the national team.

"I hope all of us can meet the expectations on us and get the results that we're looking for."

Messi – Argentina's all-time leading scorer with 65 goals – has scored a LaLiga-high 29 goals this season and 39 in all competitions for Barcelona.

The 31-year-old, who has netted six goals in his past three games, last scored for Argentina in their dramatic late win over Nigeria to advance to the round of 16 at Russia 2018.

Oliver Bierhoff insists Germany are not in a "doomsday" scenario as a new era begins following the controversial omissions of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller.

The Bayern Munich trio, who all played a key role in Germany's World Cup triumph in 2014, have been left out by head coach Joachim Low for the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Team manager Bierhoff suggested after relegation in the Nations League last year Germany should keep faith with their experienced players, but there appears to have been a change of heart.

Muller reacted angrily to being dropped while Bayern complained at the timing of the announcement, made just days before their Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Liverpool, and former coach Jurgen Klinsmann criticised the decision.

Germany play Serbia in a friendly ahead of facing Netherlands in Euro 2020 qualifying, with RB Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann, Hertha Berlin midfielder Niklas Stark and Werder Bremen forward Maximilian Eggestein the new faces in Low's squad.

Parallels have been drawn to 2004, when Germany invested in a new generation of talent after being knocked out in the group stage of the European Championship, but Bierhoff is unsure whether their current situation can be compared.

"Jurgen has a view from the outside in," Bierhoff told a news conference. "I do not want to set a doomsday scenario, we are in a better situation compared to 2004.

"There are fewer and fewer potential players in the U16, U17 area, but at the moment we still have a lot of good players we can develop. Other nations are better off, but we can look back on a good base, not as good as 2010, but we still have good players.

"I think the most important thing was that the players learned it [being dropped] from us, from Jogi Low. It was the right step to keep it short. This question of respect has surprised me, and for me as a player, the truth has always been the most important thing, and my impression is that after the first annoyance, some calm is restored."

Bayer Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt conceded he did not expect Muller, Hummels and Boateng to be left out by Low but suggested they may return one day.

"I was surprised when I read about it, I do not know the national team without the three of them," he told reporters on Monday. 

"We take the situation and we want to continue to be successful with the DFB, you never know what's going to happen in the middle of it all, you always see each other twice in your life.

"Of course we have a lot going on, the team is a bit younger now, and a lot of young players, including myself, want to be more responsible, and we need to do that over time.

"I have to find my own way, I do not worry, one says more on the pitch. Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos are still there, they bring a little more experience."

Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi has withdrawn from the Argentina squad due to an ankle injury, the Argentina FA has confirmed.

Otamendi played the full match as City came from behind to beat Swansea City 3-2 and reach the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

But, ahead of upcoming friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco in preparation for the Copa America, he has been forced to pull out of the national team squad.

The 31-year-old centre-back started all four games for Argentina at last year's World Cup as Jorge Sampaoli's side were knocked out by France in the last 16.

Otamendi's City team-mate Sergio Aguero was a surprise omission from Argentina's squad despite topping the Premier League's scoring charts with 18 goals.

Fabio Cannavaro replaced fellow Italian Marcello Lippi as head coach of China, it was announced on Friday.

Cannavaro, 45, will continue as coach of Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, while juggling his China commitments.

Lippi stepped down following China's AFC Asian Cup exit in January, though the 70-year-old former Italy boss will remain as a consultant.

"The association has carefully made this decision based on comprehensive research of his experience and technical and tactical style, familiarity with Chinese players and other factors," the Chinese Football Association said.

Cannavaro will take charge of his first international match on Thursday, when China host Thailand in the China Cup.

The former Italy captain, who returned to Evergrande in 2017 having been sacked in 2015, has overseen two wins from two matches in the CSL this season.

Ataulla Guerra re-acquainted himself with Trinidad and Tobago’s national set-up in 2017 after an absence of three years and is now saying he is happy with the way things are going under head coach, Dennis Lawrence. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp backed Joachim Low's decision to drop three Bayern Munich stars from his Germany squad, but he expects the trio to respond.

Low axed Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels from his squad for upcoming matches against Serbia and Netherlands.

Klopp, whose side visit Bayern for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, said he understood Low's move.

"This can be. I don't think one of the three thought about being kicked out," he told a news conference.

"I know Mats from my experience and they will show a reaction of course. They have a break now in the national team and will have more power."

Low pointed to a "new beginning" for Germany in dropping the trio, who helped their nation win the 2014 World Cup.

Klopp said decisions over squad selection were entirely up to Low, although the former Borussia Dortmund coach was unsure if the 59-year-old could tell players they would never be picked again.

"A small detail I'd like to say. I'm a coach and I take decisions. But I find Jogi Low has 100 per cent the right to not nominate them as he has other players," he said.

"I'm not really sure if we can say I just nominate you never again, I don't know how it works with a national team.

"My players have a contract and I can say it's better if you leave and we can talk. But no contracts with the national team.

"I as a coach decide who plays but I don't know why it is so determined, maybe they can explain it's a decision forever.

"I understand he wants to make a change but everything else we will see what we deliver at the end and that's how our careers are measured."

Liverpool face Bayern at the Allianz Arena with the tie locked at 0-0 on aggregate.

David Neres has been called up by Brazil for the first time, with the Ajax winger replacing Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid teenager Vinicius was set to earn his debut senior cap but had to withdraw due to a calf injury.

Taking his place is Ajax star Neres, who was on the scoresheet as the Dutch side knocked Madrid out of the Champions League.

Neres, 22, has been directly involved in 40 Eredivisie goals in 60 league appearances since joining Ajax from Sao Paulo in 2017.

Brazil face Panama in Porto on March 23 and take on Czech Republic in Prague three days later.

Tite's side are building towards the Copa America, where the hosts have been drawn with Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said Lionel Messi wants to try international football "one more time" as the superstar looks to reignite his career with the Albiceleste.

Messi has not played for Argentina since last year's World Cup but the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is back for a pair of upcoming friendlies.

The Barcelona captain made himself unavailable following Argentina's last-16 exit to France at Russia 2018, however, the 31-year-old will be involved against Venezuela and Morocco this month.

Discussing Messi's return, Scaloni told reporters: "It was a big disappointment the World Cup in Russia and for Messi even more. The decision in the first six matches [of the Scaloni cycle] was that it did not come.

"Over time he saw that we grew up, he observed the way we play and he is happy. Messi wants to try it one more time.

"The decision of the coaching staff was not to come, and as a result of the matches he saw we did, he is happy and wants to try one more time. For us it is welcome.

"He is playing many games and many players would like to rest, but he prefers to come. The decision of whether to play a game or two is going to be taken by me. It's crazy to say that he's only going to play a game when there are still 15 days left."

Messi is Argentina's all-time leading scorer with 65 goals, but he is yet to win a senior international title with the South American giants.

Argentina will face Venezuela in Madrid on March 22, before travelling to Morocco four days later.

 

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni explained Mauro Icardi was not considered for selection in his latest squad due to the Inter striker's "complicated situation" at club level.

Icardi has been left out of Inter's last five matchday squads after being stripped of the captaincy last month, and speculation over his future at San Siro persists.

The 26-year-old posted a lengthy statement on Instagram last week in which he questioned whether Inter's decision-makers were showing him respect, although he professed his love for the club and claimed to have previously rejected several significant offers.

Despite his affection for the Nerazzurri, Icardi and Inter have been unable to reach an agreement over a new contract, raising the possibility that he has played his last game for the club.

That situation has now impacted Icardi's international career, as Scaloni wished to keep such potential distractions well away from his squad for the friendlies with Venezuela and Morocco, with Lionel Messi involved for the first time since the World Cup.

"Mauro's present situation is complicated," Scaloni told a news conference. "That is evident and we cannot be part of his present.

"He takes decisions with his people and his club and then we take our own decisions. It is not convenient for the national team, Mauro's current situation.  

"We have to take decisions and this time he won't be with us. If later he will go to the Copa America or not, we will see in the next few months.

"Our line is always the same, to call players for a reason and Mauro is in a complicated situation.

"I talked to him. He understood very well.

"I was a player and I don't like to get involved in situations like this one. I prefer to wait until he solves his situation and later we'll decide what to do."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni insisted his relationship with Sergio Aguero is "perfect" and that reports of an argument are "absolutely false" after ignoring the Manchester City star for another international squad.

Lionel Messi has been named in the selection to end his hiatus, as he looks set to make a first appearance for Argentina since their disappointing World Cup campaign last year.

However, Aguero's post-Russia exile continues, despite scoring 18 goals in 25 Premier League appearances for City this term.

Reports have previously suggested Aguero and Scaloni were involved in a row during Argentina's fractious World Cup campaign.

But Scaloni moved to dismiss those claims, explaining Aguero's latest absence is down to wanting to give less-experienced individuals a chance to impress.

"I want to clarify that my relationship with him is perfect," Scaloni told a news conference on Thursday.

"I have heard and read that I had an argument, and it is absolutely false. I want to emphasise that there are no problems and the relationship is the same, he is an extraordinary boy.

"I talked to him in August when we just spoke about his situation. Football-wise he is on an incredible level, but I have to call players who have not put on the shirt.

"We think it can be good to look at more players and not always stick with them."

Argentina will face Venezuela and Morocco in friendlies on March 23 and 26, respectively.

Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time in almost nine months, although Sergio Aguero has been left out.

Messi has not played for his country since the 2018 World Cup, where Jorge Sampaoli's side lost to eventual winners France in the last 16.

Sampaoli's successor Lionel Scaloni has been unable to call upon the Barcelona captain for any of Argentina's matches since taking charge.

But Messi will soon make his international return as he is in the Argentina squad for upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

There is no room for Aguero, however, with Scaloni favouring Lautaro Martinez, Giovanni Simeone and Dario Benedetto over the Manchester City star.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi also misses out, as he has not played for his club since February 9 amid a stand-off that began with him being stripped of the captaincy.

Gonzalo Higuain is another high-profile attacking omission. Like Aguero, Chelsea's on-loan Juventus striker has not been involved for the Albiceleste since Russia 2018.

Scaloni has once again taken the opportunity to shuffle his pack and call up a host of uncapped players.

Goalkeepers Esteban Andrada and Juan Musso could feature for the first time, while Gonzalo Montiel and Lisandro Martinez are newcomers in defence.

Midfielder Matias Zaracho has been called up before, but the 20-year-old winger is still hoping for a debut cap, while Ivan Marcone and Domingo Blanco are similarly inexperienced on the international stage.

The new face among the forwards is Matias Suarez, a 30-year-old attacker who has scored three times in six league games for River Plate since joining from Belgrano in January.

There is also a return for Manuel Lanzini, who has not featured for Argentina since damaging knee ligaments in a World Cup warm-up match against Haiti last May.

Argentina will compete in the Copa America this year, having been drawn in Group B alongside Colombia, Paraguay and special guests Qatar.

Messi and Argentina have been on the losing side in each of the past two Copa America finals, beaten by Chile on penalties on both occasions.

Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time in almost nine months, although Sergio Aguero has been left out.

Messi has not played for his country since the 2018 World Cup, where Jorge Sampaoli's side lost to eventual winners France in the last 16.

Sampaoli's successor Lionel Scaloni has been unable to call upon the Barcelona captain for any of Argentina's matches since taking charge.

But Messi will soon make his international return as he is in the Argentina squad for upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

There is no room for Aguero, however, with Scaloni favouring Lautaro Martinez, Giovanni Simeone and Dario Benedetto over the Manchester City star.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi also misses out, as he has not played for his club since February 9 amid a stand-off that began with him being stripped of the captaincy.

Gonzalo Higuain is another high-profile attacking omission. Like Aguero, Chelsea's on-loan Juventus striker has not been involved for the Albiceleste since Russia 2018.

 

A brace from talismanic Reggae Girl, Khadija Shaw helped Jamaica to a 3-2 win over Chile in the second of two friendlies between the teams at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in St James on Sunday. 

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