Argentina v Paraguay: Martino out to bite the hand that used to feed him

Topics

Argentina are favourites to win the Copa America and will aim to show their credentials in their opening game against Paraguay.

Gerardo Martino took Paraguay to the final of the Copa America four years ago, but the Argentina coach is plotting their downfall ahead of Saturday's Group B clash in La Serena.

Martino spent five years in charge of Paraguay before ending his tenure after a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay in the 2011 Copa final in Argentina.

The 52-year-old has since spent a spell in charge of Newell's Old Boys before a disappointing one-season reign as Barcelona coach came to an end last May.

Martino was not out of work for long, as he was charged with the task of replacing Alejandro Sabella as coach of his country last August.

He took over a side still licking their wounds following a 1-0 defeat to Germany in the World Cup final in Brazil and is aiming to end Argentina's 22-year wait to win a major trophy.

Not since the 1993 Copa triumph have a nation considered one of the powerhouses of world football been able to revel in winning a major tournament.

Argentina are favourites to be crowned Copa champions and will be out to make a statement of intent against Paraguay at Estadio La Portada de La Serena.

Sergio Aguero helped himself to a hat-trick and Angel di Maria struck twice as Martino's men hammered Bolivia 5-0 on Sunday in their final friendly ahead of the tournament.

Argentina have an embarrassment of riches in attack and Paraguay felt the force of their firepower the last time the two sides met two years ago, when Lionel Messi bagged a brace in a 5-2 victory.

Defender Martin Demichelis is confident Argentina can rise to the challenge and put their World Cup disappointment behind them.

The Manchester City centre-back said: "The big majority of us finished the season with our clubs in great shape. Many of us also winning important titles, plus four Argentinian players in the Champions League final.

"This generation has high expectations plus the extra pressure of showing the great level we demonstrated at the last World Cup. We have no doubts that we are one of the candidates. We cannot deny this responsibility."

He added: "I never had the chance to play in the Copa America, and was the nearest goal I could set for myself after the World Cup. Everyone wants to be here. I have a lot of energy to keep contributing to this group."

Argentina have injury concern over Fernando Gago, who suffered a muscle strain in training on Wednesday, and fellow midfielder Lucas Biglia (knee). 

Paraguay coach Roman Diaz said he has no plans to man-mark the imperious Messi ahead of the Argentine coach's first experience of coaching in a major international tournament.

Former River Plate coach Diaz was appointed last December after Victor Genes had been in caretaker charge following the dismissal of Gerardo Pelusso, who failed to guide Paraguay to last year's World Cup.