BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina defender Marcos Rojo’s form for Manchester United has earned him a recall to a 26-man squad for World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia later this month.
Rojo was dropped last November, missing a 3-0 defeat in Brazil and a 3-0 home win over Colombia in the qualifiers, having been little used at United since the start of the season.
However, United manager Jose Mourinho drafted Rojo into the centre of his defence in October and the 26-year-old has played almost uninterruptedly in the Premier League since.
Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza is likely to return Rojo to his usual left back spot rather than rejig his central defence to fit him in there instead of Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori.
Former San Lorenzo defender Emanuel Mas, who is now with Trabzonspor in Turkey, played at left back in the last two qualifiers.
Bauza has dropped veteran centre back Martin Demichelis and Atletico Madrid winger Nicolas Gaitan but retained forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, who last year joined Chinese Super league club Hebei Fortune from Paris St Germain.
Captain Lionel Messi’s Argentina side need a win over Chile at River Plate’s Monumental stadium on March 23 to leapfrog their opponents into fourth place in the South American group.
Five days later, they travel to face Bolivia in the thin air of La Paz nearly 4,000 metres above sea level where former coach Diego Maradona’s Argentina suffered a 6-1 defeat in 2009.
Argentina drew 1-1 in La Paz in their previous qualifier away to Bolivia in 2013.
They have lost the last two Copa America finals on penalties to Chile but only ever lost one qualifier to them.
Brazil top the group with 27 points from 12 matches, four ahead of second-placed Uruguay with Ecuador and Chile, making up the quartet in the automatic qualifying berths, three points further back.
With six matches left, Argentina are fifth with 19 points and occupy the playoff spot, which brings a clash with a team from Oceania for another place at the 2018 finals in Russia.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Nahuel Guzman (UANL Tigres), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Otamendi (both Manchester City), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Julio Buffarini (Sao Paulo), Emmanuel Mas (Trabzonspor)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Guido Pizarro (UANL Tigres), Ever Banega (Inter Milan), Angel Di Maria (Paris St Germain), Enzo Perez (Valencia), Marcos Acuna (Racing Club)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Pratto (Sao Paulo), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain (both Juventus), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei Fortune)
Editing by Ken Ferris