La Paz altitude next test for homesick Uruguay
After consecutive comprehensive defeats on their travels, Uruguay will try to conquer their away struggles in the high altitude of La Paz when they take on Bolivia on Tuesday as the South American 2014 World Cup qualifying competition enters its second half.
The reigning Copa America champions currently occupy the fourth and final automatic qualification spot for Brazil 2014, but find themselves level on points with fifth-placed Chile and just one ahead of sixth-placed Venezuela.
Having conceded seven goals in away defeats to Colombia (4-0) and Argentina (3-0), La Celeste's defence will be stretched further in the Bolivian capital with captain Diego Lugano, Diego Godin and Martin Caceres all ruled out through suspension.
Oscar Tabarez's side have collected just one point away from Montevideo's Estadio Centenario, but Benfica full-back Maxi Pereira says a victory on Tuesday is essential.
"We have to win in Bolivia, there is no alternative."
Lugano, who helped guide Uruguay to the semi-finals in South Africa two years ago, echoed those sentiments, saying: "Now every game for us is like a final because our World Cup qualification is in danger."
Uruguay will have little time to adjust to the altitude -- the Estadio Hernando Siles is some 3,600 metres above sea level -- but Pereira says that can't be used as an excuse.
"I played in the altitude in the last campaign, coming on in the second half. At first it sets you back a bit, but after you can bear it."
However unlike Ecuador, who have turned their Quito stadium into a fortress, Bolivia's home qualifying record is far less impressive with just one win from four matches.
Xabier Azkargorta's men realistically need three points on Tuesday to keep their quickly fading hopes alive.
Argentina, unbeaten in their past six qualifiers, can take another step towards clinching their place in the finals when they face a depleted Chile in Santiago.
Chile succumbed to Ecuador in Quito on Friday, but the repercussions of that defeat have also left Claudio Borghi without midfielder Arturo Vidal and Pablo Contreras -- both players were sent-off -- while Osvaldo Gonzalez is also suspended after accruing his second yellow card of the campaign.
Miguel Pinto, meanwhile, will continue to deputise in goal for the injured Claudio Bravo.
Argentina, who lead the standings with 17 points from eight matches, have injury concerns of their own after Gonzalo Higuain (hip) and Marcos Rojo (hamstring) were forced off during La Albiceleste's 3-0 win over Uruguay.
However, Alejandro Sabella does have an in-form Lionel Messi at his disposal.
Since Sabella's arrival, the Barcelona superstar has tallied 13 goals in as many matches and received widepsread acclaim for his two-goal performance against Uruguay.
Messi was also on the scoresheet when Argentina won the reverse fixture 4-1 in Buenos Aires last October, and the 25-year-old is now just four shy of Diego Maradona's 34 international goals.
Elsewhere, Venezuela have genuine ambitions of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time.
Cesar Farias' side are one point from an automatic berth as they prepare to host Ecuador.
Reinaldo Rueda's Ecuador have proved unstoppable at home, with five wins from as many matches.
However, it's been a different story on the road, where they've picked up just one point from three matches.
Ecuador will be without the suspended Felipe Caicedo, who scored twice in Friday's 3-1 win over Chile and has four goals in his last three matches for his country, but Antonio Valencia is available again following his one-match ban.
Paraguay and Peru meet in Asuncion in the other match.
Paraguay are bottom with a mere four points having lost five qualifiers in a row, their worst run since the current system was introduced in 1996, while seventh-placed Peru lie on eight points.
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