Soccer

Batista drops Perez from national squad

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP)

Argentina coach Sergio Batista dropped midfielder Enzo Perez on Tuesday from the squad to face Portugal in a friendly on Feb. 9 at the request of his club Estudiantes.

Batista, who has called up Cristian Chavez of Boca Juniors as a replacement, said he spoke with Estudiantes manager Alejandro Sabella and agreed to the change.

Sabella said he wanted his club to be at full strength for a Copa Libertadores match against Brazil club Cruzeiro on Feb. 16.

''The national team should be the priority,'' Batista said. ''But I don't want to get into a discussion about this because Estudiantes have been very good about making their players available - at all levels.''

Batista announced the squad on Monday for the match in Geneva with several key players omitted - Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero and defenders Martin Demichelis of Malaga and Gabriel Heinze of Marseille. Also missing was injured Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who won his second straight FIFA player of the year award, headlines the squad.

Preparing to host the Copa America in July, Argentina plays the United States on March 26 at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then opens Costa Rica's new stadium three days later in San Jose.

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Team:

Goalkeepers: Mariano Andujar (Catania), Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmar)

Defenders: Nicolas Burdisso (Roma), Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid), Gabriel Milito (Barcelona), Nicolas Otamendi (FC Porto), Nicolas Pareja (Spartak Moscow), Marcos Rojo (Spartak Moscow), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan).

Midfielders: Ever Banega (Valencia), Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Fernando Gago (Real Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Javier Pastore (Palermo), Cristian Chavez (Boca Juniors), Jose Sosa (Napoli).

Forwards: Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli), Juan Manual Martinez (Velez Sarsfield), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Diego Milito (Inter Milan).

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