Messi to make Copa debut – Martino

Chicago (AFP) – Lionel Messi will return to Argentina’s starting line-up for Friday’s Copa America Centenario clash with Panama, coach Gerardo Martino confirmed Thursday.

Speaking to reporters at Soldier Field ahead of Friday’s Group D game, Martino said Messi had been cleared to play after recovering from a back injury.

“Leo trained with the group normally. There is nothing unusual, and he will play tomorrow,” Martino said.

“With Leo as with any other player, once you get a medical discharge, he is available for selection,” he added.

Messi, who injured his lower back during Argentina’s friendly win over Honduras last month, was on the bench for the Albiceleste’s opening 2-1 victory over Chile on Monday in Santa Clara.

He was replaced by Nicolas Gaitan, who is likely to make way for the Barcelona superstar on Friday, where a win will send Argentina into the quarter-finals.

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