Ahead of matchday three in Group C, tensions could hardly be higher nor permutations layered thicker. All four teams still have a chance to earn a place in the next round of the World Cup and with the destinies of four separate nations so intertwined, plenty of drama is expected to unfold today.
While qualification is objective number one for Poland and Argentina, both teams will be keen to finish in top spot to avoid a potentially fatal clash with France in the Last 16.
As per the norm, you can find our stats pack for this evening’s pivotal showdown below which should arm you with everything you need to know about the teams’ shots, shots on target, xG, corners, cards and more.
All our info is taken from the sides’ pre-World Cup qualification games and group matches in Qatar. Use the information below in conjunction with my Stats Pack Guide Guide to conquer the bet builder markets later on.
Poland used a flat back four in their 2-0 win against Saudi Arabia on matchday two, though they could switch back to a five-man backline against the star-studded Argentineans today.
Bartosz Bereszynski could move from left back to centre-half in that scenario, with key schemer Piotr Zielinski reprising his role at number ten after a shift on the flank against the Saudis.
Lisandro Martinez and Marcos Acuna were both drafted in to start against Mexico on matchday two and both defenders should keep their places today following strong performances against El Tri.
Enzo Fernandez put forward a strong case to start following his wondergoal off the bench against the Mexicans, though Head Coach Lionel Scaloni might prefer to stick with the midfield steel offered by Guido Rodriguez instead.
Poland shouldered some impressive underlying stats right through their qualification campaign, though their World Cup data hasn’t shone quite as brightly so far.
Against Saudi Arabia on matchday two Poland lost both the shot and corner count (9-16 & 4-5), while the xG figures in Saturday’s game were wild (2.74-2.25).
Poland also collected three yellow cards inside the first 20 minutes and their panicked start against Saudi Arabia could be replicated against a stronger Argentinean outfit
Argentina’s attacking metrics from their South American qualification group were on the modest side though La Albiceleste didn’t need to many chances to gun Mexico down on matchday two.
Lionel Scaloni’s charges mustered just five attempts in total against Mexico and their two goals were plundered from their only pair of shots on target and a measly xG of 0.35.
Argentina have kept their noses clean from a disciplinary perspective in Qatar and only England (0) have collected fewer cards than the South Americans so far (1).
Player Shots and Shots on Target
At first glance Krzysztof Piatek’s numbers make him look like a shot-market sure thing, though the 27-year-old has seen just 19 minutes of action in Qatar and the striker is almost certain to be a substitute again today.
Robert Lewandowski, who had five attempts against Saudi Arabia on matchday two, will probably make most punter’s bet builder coupons this evening in some capacity – and for good reason.
Lewandowski’s strike partner, Arkadiusz Milik, marked his first World Cup start with one shot against Saudi Arabia at the weekend and the 28-year-old will be aiming to match that output at the very least today.
Argentina had very few sniffs of goal against Mexico, though talismanic icon Lionel Messi racked up two of their five attempts. The 35-year-old has been hitting 2.50 shots p/90 overall in Qatar, which falls considerably short of his strike rate during qualifiers.
Lautaro Martinez has lodged a least one attempt in every World Cup group match so far, as has Enzo Fernandez, though all of the latter’s efforts have been registered as a substitute.
Angel Di Maria was a potent operator in qualification fixtures, though the winger has managed to clock just two attempts at the World Cup and both of those have been from distance.
Player Goals and Assists
Robert Lewandowski said breaking his World Cup duck against Saudi Arabia was a “dream come true” and his second-half strike also allowed him to snap a run of five games for Poland with a goal.
Piotr Zielinski grabbed the opener against Saudi Arabia and Poland will hope that the one-two-punch combo provided by the Napoli midfield and Lewandowski can do just as much damage against Argentina.
Robert Lewandowski claimed an assist for that deadlock-breaker and really, you cannot look beyond the Barcelona centre-forward and Zielinski as the prime options for Poland in both the goals and assist markets again today.
Lionel Messi has been making light of the massive weight of expectation on his shoulders in Qatar and the seasoned superstar has scored two and created one of Argentina’s three World Cup goals so far.
Beyond the impactful 35-year-old, Argentina’s other attackers have looked a little meek. Lautaro Martinez has posted an xG figure of just 0.2, while Angel Di Maria’s is even worse at 0.1 (p/90).
Poland will be forgiven for thinking that if they stop Messi, they stop Argentina today – though that is of course, much easier said than done.
Jakub Kiwior, Matty Cash and Arkadiusz Milik all had itchy trigger fingers against Saudi Arabia on Saturday and all three players were cautioned before the 20-minute mark, though the latter pair collected bookings for their only fouls in the tournament so far.
Cash has committed five fouls in Qatar overall, which is one more than hard-hitting midfield pair Jakub Kamiński and Grzegorz Krychowiak have, and though Poland’s anchormen have yet to see yellow at the World Cup, they could both be decent candidates in the card market today.
32-year-old Krychowiak was booked twice and averaged 2.58 fouls per 90 minutes during Poland’s World Cup qualifiers.
Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi was marked out for some special treatment from opponents during Argentina’s qualifiers and La Albiceleste’s skipper has already been fouled seven times in 180 minutes of football in Qatar.
Messi could be on the receiving end again when he meets Poland’s Krychowiak in the pockets between defence and midfield, while his compatriot Rodrigo de Paul (fouled 3.29 times p/90) could feel the full force of Jakub Kamiński’s tackles a little deeper.
Polish foul-merchant Matty Cash could laser in on the shins and ankles of influential winger Angel Di Maria in a head-to-head with serious card potential.
Match-Ups to watch
Jakub Kamiński vs Rodrigo de Paul
Grzegorz Krychowiak vs Lionel Messi
Matty Cash vs Angel Di Maria
Right-back Gonzalo Montiel (vs Mexico) is the only Argentinean player to have their name taken by the match officials at the World Cup so far, though Nicolas Otamendi (five cards in qualifiers), fellow centre-half Lisandro Martinez and holding midfielder Guido Rodriguez could be better options to consider this evening.
Otamendi (three fouls) and Martinez (two fouls) will need to match the physicality of Poland’s front two (Lewandowski and Milik) and the potential for aggressive altercations feels high there.
Rodriguez meanwhile, who has been averaging 3.2 tackles per game for his club Real Betis this term and 2.0 per World Cup appearance for Argentina, will have every inch of his defensive nous tested by Poland’s Zielinski.
Poland’s double act up front, Robert Lewandowski (five in two starts) and Arkadiusz Milik (two in one start) have been fouled seven times between them in two World Cup assignments and both should have calves raked and shins bruised by no-nonsense Argentinean defenders Otamendi and Martinez today.
Piotr Zielinski was fouled 1.61 times p 90 in qualification matches and pushed back to his favoured central position today, he should be able to make Guido Rodriguez more than a little uncomfortable.
Match-Ups to watch
Nicolas Otamendi vs Robert Lewandowski
Lisandro Martinez vs Arkadiusz Milik
Guido Rodriguez vs Piotr Zielinski