Lionel Messi's presence for Argentina is a privilege not a nuisance, team-mate Giovani Lo Celso insisted ahead of the nation's decisive Copa America clash against Qatar.
Messi and Argentina are in danger of a Copa group-stage elimination as La Albiceleste prepare to face guest Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday. After a 2-0 loss to Colombia and a 1-1 draw against Paraguay from two Group B matches, pressure is on Argentina, with captain Messi firmly in the spotlight.
Messi — the country's all-time leading scorer — is yet to win a senior trophy with Argentina following back-to-back Copa finals in 2015 and 2016 and a runner-up appearance at the 2014 World Cup.
When asked if Messi's presence is more a nuisance than an opportunity for young players as Argentina eyes its first major title since 1993, Lo Celso hauled the 31-year-old superstar.
"I think not, I see the opposite," Lo Celso told reporters. "Having Leo as a partner and playing with him is a privilege. On the contrary, it always solves everything. In that sense, of course we try to take advantage of it. So having him in training, like in games is a privilege. These are things that do not happen every day, sharing trainings and matches with him.
"When I'm young, I try to observe, to learn a lot. Because it does not always happen and for me it's a privilege and try to learn as much as I can alongside it."
'In good shape'
Argentina is bottom of Group B, below Qatar on goal difference, though a win and finishing third could be enough to tee Lionel Scaloni's side progress. "From a mental and psychological perspective, we're in good shape because we have the possibility of progressing and if we win we're in the next round," Scaloni said.
Scaloni added: "These young people need support, it's too much pressure on them from life or death. It's a football match, we have to win and that's enough. I believe they need this support, we know what is happening, but they are young people who need this support and positive thinking to give the best and to make the climate the best possible."
Scaloni tinkered with his line-up against Paraguay — dropping Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria to the bench — and he could make more changes for the Qatar clash. Asked if Paulo Dybala could play alongside Messi given their similarities, Scaloni responded: "They can play together, they're two top-level players and they need to work together, which they haven't done much, but with compromise they could do it."
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