Mascherano and Higuain hopeful on Messi injury

The Albiceleste talisman had to be stretchered off on Friday but his team-mates are still optimistic on his fitness ahead of the Copa America

Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain hope to have Lionel Messi fit for the start of the Copa America Centenario after he was forced off in Argentina’s friendly win over Honduras.

The captain was forced off just past the hour mark of the 1-0 victory in San Juan after taking a heavy blow to his back and ribs, with further tests set to take place to determine the extent of the injury.

Coach Gerardo Martino admitted afterwards that any potential injury for Messi was a major concern, with Argentina beginning their Copa campaign against champions Chile on June 6.

And Barcelona team-mate Mascherano hopes the problem will prove to be a minor one, but conceded that warm-up friendlies always pose a risk of injury at the end of a long season.

“I hope it’s nothing, we’ve had a long season and in a game like this you run the risk,” he told TyC Sports. “Hopefully it was just a knock, nothing more.”

Looking ahead to Argentina’s Copa hopes, he said: “We arrived on Wednesday, there are lads who joined us in the last few days with the fatigue of the season.

“But we’re looking forward to what’s coming. It’s important for us and hopefully we can win the Copa America.

“It’s a new opportunity for us, we have no option but to win. It’s what this team has wanted in recent times.”

Higuain, whose sublime chip secured a fourth win in a row for Argentina, hopes to have Messi available quickly as his side look to go one better following last year’s final defeat to Chile.

“We’ll see, hopefully it’s nothing. He’s very important for us. We have to wait,” said the Napoli star.

“I go away happy because it was an important game before we head off. Of course there are things to improve but this will help us to do that.

“We’ve reached the Copa in good form, with a lot of excitement, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

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