Reds midfielder Javier Mascherano has been named in Argentina’s 18 man squad for the Oympics and will therefore miss the start of the new Premier League season. Mascherano will miss the opening fixtures against Sunderland and Middlesbrough but should be back for the Aston Villa match on August 30th.
The midfield enforcer will also miss the Champions League qualifiers on Aug 12/13 and 26/27.
Argentina begin their matches on August 7th against Ivory Coast, then the 10th against Australia and 13th against Serbia, progression from their group will see them into the knockout stages, with the final Gold medal match on August 23rd – the same day Liverpool entertain Middlesbrough.
Mascherano’s inclusion in the squad has been somewhat controversial in that he is an ‘overage’ player since the Olympics are now an under-23 tournament. Mind, Argentina’s squad is pretty strong, with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Joan Riquelme all included.
Defender Emiliano Insua, who agreed a new contract at the club yesterday, has not been included in the squad. Insua was rewarded for his impressive displays in the reserves last season with a three year contract extension. The 19 year old will be hoping to challenge for a first team place this season after playing in the final three games of last season.
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva is expected to be named in their squad once it is announced meaning Rafa Benitez will be short of midfield cover for the opening fixtures of the season – he hopes to have Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard available, and possibly Xabi Alonso if his move to Juventus doesn’t materialise.