Is a World Cup without Lionel Messi worth watching? Well that could be a reality as Argentina struggle to emerge from their qualifying group for next year’s tournament.
Already qualified and heading to Russia next summer are, Russia (hosts), Brazil, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Belgium.
We take a look at who may be joining them.
Over the weekend this list will grow longer with the qualifying process drawing to a close. England and Germany are expected to seal their places with wins over Slovenia and Northern Ireland respectively. While the likes of Italy, Argentina and the Netherlands still have work to do.
Despite their excellent performance in the World Cup in Brazil under Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands are in danger of missing out next summer as France and Sweden lead the way in group A.
With a trip to Belarus on Saturday followed by a crucial clash with Sweden on Tuesday.
France lead the way with 17 points, the Swedes a point behind with sixteen while the Dutch are third with 13.
Switzerland and Portugal lead the way and cannot be caught with all to decide now is who goes through and who has to settle for a play-off spot.
They face each other on October 10 in their final match in which Portugal are likely to need a win by more than two goals. Switzerland are yet to drop a point in qualifying.
Germany and Northern Ireland lead the way in group C. The sides meet tonight in Windsor Park where the Northern Irish side will have to win to avoid Germany taking the group. Germany are top on 24 points while Michael O’Neill’s men are in second on 19 points with at least the play-off spot in assured.
In group D, Serbia are in front on 19 points with the Republic of Ireland and Wales vying for a play-off spot when the meet on Monday, should they both win their games on Friday. However, both are in need of other sides doing them a favour as the lowest ranked second placed team will miss out on the play-offs.
Poland are top with two matches to play on 19 points but are in a battle with Montenegro and Denmark with both sides on 16 points in second and third. Denmark play Montenegro on Thursday and Montenegro travel to Poland on Sunday in games that will decide the final standings of the group.
England top group A with Gareth Southgate’s men qualifying should they best Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday. Slovenia, Scotland and Slovakia look set to battle it out for a play-off spot.
Group G is interesting with both Spain and Italy battling it out for top spot ensuring a giant is going to head for the play-offs. Spain are in front on 22 with the Italians on 19.
Roberto Martinez and his assistant Thierry Henry will be in Russia next summer having already qualified with Belgium. It looks like Bosnia and Greece will battle it out for the play-off spot.
Croatia and Iceland are toughing it out for automatic qualification, both on 16 points. While Turkey and the Ukraine lie in third and fourth with 14 points in the most open group of all.
Ukraine face Croatia while Turkey take on Iceland on Friday will make things clearer heading into the final games on Monday.
Group A sees Tunisia and DR Congo vying for top spot with Guinea and Libya already eliminated.
In Group B, Nigeria and Zambia lead the way with Cameroon and Algeria set to miss out.
The Ivory Coast, Morocco, Gabon, Mali are all in contention in Group C to qualify with the Ivory Coast leading the way.
Group D sees Burkina Faso, Senegal, South Africa and Cape Verde only separated by two points with all to play for.
Group E sees Egypt in pole position with two games to go, with Uganda and Ghana still in with a chance while Congo have been eliminated.
In Group A, Iran and South Korea have already qualified with Syria in the play-off spot. Uzbekistan, China and Qatar will miss out.
Japan and Saudi Arabia have already qualified from Group B while Australia will meet Syria in the play-offs. UAE, Iraq and Thailand are already eliminated.
North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)
Mexico have already qualified. Costa Rica are second with 15 points and are guaranteed at least a play-off place. One of the United States, Honduras and Panama will miss out joining Trinidad and Tobago who have been eliminated.
New Zealand have qualified to face the 5th place South American team in a November playoff. Caledonia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea will not be going to Russia.
South American (Conmebol)
Brazil have already qualified, with Bolivia and Venezuela eliminated.
Uruguay are currently in second with Colombia and Peru close behind in third and fourth. Lionel Messi and Argentina meanwhile are in fifth the inter-continental play-off spot on 24 points, behind Peru on goals scored, with the real possibility of missing out on the showpiece event.
The face Peru on Thursday in a must win game. Chile lie in sixth on 23 points, looking increasingly likely that only one of themselves and Argentina will make the cut.
So it’s all to play for with some big nations facing a critical few days.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena