|Lucas Biglia (left), Angel Di Maria (centre) and Ever Banega (right) train ahead of their showdown with Singapore at the Sports Hub. (Photo source: Noor Farhan)|
Speaking at a press conference on Monday night, Sampaoli told the media that it would have been "risky" to field the five-time Ballon d'Or winner in Tuesday's international friendly against Singapore. "Messi has been playing a lot of games ... it would be risky to let him play now," said Sampaoli, who will be taking charge of his second game with Argentina.
Messi landed at Singapore's Changi Airport on Saturday with the team but later left the squad. It was reported that Messi was returning to Barcelona to prepare for his wedding. However following his departure from Singapore, Messi was reportedly seen in Ibiza, Spain on holiday with his family and former Barcelona team-mate Cesc Fabregas.
International match promoter UNICESS said in a statement that Messi will not feature due to "personal reasons".
Messi's fellow teammates Nicolas Otamendi and Gonzalo Hiuain have also been left out of the squad and will not feature against the Lions.
Despite the absence of Messi, coach Sampaoli's 23-man squad is a star-studded one, with Manchester United's Sergio Romero, Paris Saint Germain's Angel Di Maria and Juventus striker Paulo Dybala all set to start against Singapore.
Sampaoli, who arrived with his team on the back of a 1-0 victory over rivals Brazilin Melbourne, told media that he is expecting his players to play at the same level as they do for their clubs in the upcoming game against the Lions.
"We are still in the process of getting the team ready ... We are not expecting a difficult game against Singapore. We'll approach the game expecting a win," said Sampaoli.
LIONS TO BE CAUTIOUS: SUNDRAM
Meanwhile their opponents Singapore, who are ranked 155 places below Argentina in the latest FIFA rankings, will be taking a prudent strategy for the fixture.
"They (Argentina) are a strong team," said Lions national coach V Sundramoorthy,
"We would love to entertain, but we have to be cautious," added Sundram, who saw his team fall to a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Chinese Taipei on Saturday in a World Cup qualifier.
Still, Sundram insisted he would have loved to have seen Messi play against his side.
"He would have filled the stadium with a good crowd," said the former Singapore international.