Lionel Messi will not play in Argentina's Copa America Centenario opener against Chile, according to a report from AS. Messi sustained a back injury during Argentina's warmup game against Honduras, and it appears that the Chile match comes too soon for the Barcelona star.
Messi trained seperately from the rest of the Argentinian squad on Sunday, only doing light work with the ball because of sustained pain in his lower back, and he will reportedly sit out Monday's training session as well.
AS reported Argentina boss Gerardo "Tata" Martino indicated that Benfica and soon-to-be Atletico Madrid midfielder Nicolas Gaitan would take his place in the match, while maintaining that Messi should be available for Argentina's next game against Panama.
It's a huge blow for Argentina in what is a repeat of the 2015 Copa America final, which they lost on penalties. However, the squad still boasts plenty of talent, and, while he's no Messi, Gaitan is an extremely proficient player who has finally earned his big move after years of impressing at Benfica.
Of course, it is still possible that Messi could make a substitute appearance, but it seems unlikely that Martino will risk his star as he could play an important role in the latter stages of the tournament. It is no doubt a blow, but Argentina have the squad depth to overcome Chile, at least on paper.
Argentina vs Chile kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. EST.
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