What are the key battles to look out for in the crucial Group C encounter?


Argentina are about to be involved in a decisive match on Wednesday night, when they face Poland in a virtual knockout playoff at Stadium-974. The winner of the tie will go through to the  World Cup knockouts, while a draw could also be enough if Mexico gets the better of Saudi Arabia in the other match of the group. Both sides are heading into the final group-fixture on the back of 2-0 victories in their last outing. La Albiceleste got the better of Mexico on Saturday, while Poland overcame Saudi Arabia on the same day. Favourites Argentina have been far convincing in their opening two games, having pocketed just three points from a possible six. Poland, meanwhile, are yet to taste defeat and have four points to their name from two outings.

Nicolas Otamendi vs Robert Lewandowski 

Lewandowski, who netted his 77th international goal in the last match against the Green Falcons, will be the key man for Poland on Wednesday. The Barcelona player doesn’t get the same kind of supply as he is used to in his club, but still, the 34-year-old has enough quality to make things happen. The Former Bayern Munich-man is a predator in-and-around the box and Argentina’s best strategy to deal with the striker would be to dispossess at the middle of the park, stay as close as possible and be physical. Nicolas Otamendi might be tasked with the duty to mark the talismanic striker. The Benfica defender, who has 95 international caps to his name, is a no nonsense defender who is not afraid to put his body on the line and can give a hard time to the striker. 

Angel Di Maria vs Bartosz Bereszynski

Angel Di Maria has been a lone bright spot for Argentina in this edition of the World cup thus far. The Juventus-man has worked his socks off down the right flank in the first two games. He has been fluent while attacking, taking on defenders and delivering quality balls to the penalty box on a consistent basis. The 34-year-old will be up against Polish left-back Bartosz Bereszynki on Wednesday. It’s likely to be Argentina’s attack versus Poland’s defence as the White-Reds might sit back, defend deep and try to hit the opposition on the counter attacks. Most of La Albicelest’s attacks are likely to come from the right channel and Di Maria is going to be a key man. Therefore Bereszynski will have a busy night at Stadium-974. The 30-year-old will need to be mature enough to not go down easily and stay on his feet for as long as possible while dealing with the Juventus-man. 

Read more: Poland vs Argentina: FIFA World Cup Live Stream, Form Guide, Schedule, Fixture and Probable Lineups

Lionel Messi vs Krystian Bielik

Krystain Bielik might be the man for Poland to deal with arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Messi. The Birmingham City midfielder can’t afford to give any space to Messi as he doesn’t need a second invitation to get on the scoresheet as seen in the last match against Mexico. When Messi scored against El Tri in the 64th-minute, that was probably the only instance in the match when the 34-year-old was given a bit of time and space. Man-marking Messi might be a foolish tactic, because the Paris-Saint Germain will take the marker out of the equation, which will give space for the likes of Di Maria and Martinez, therefore, a zonal-marking could be more effective. 

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