Earlier, Argentina changed goalkeepers for their final World Cup Group D match against Nigeria on Tuesday, with Franco Armani starting in place of the error-prone Willy Caballero and striker Gonzalo Higuain also getting his first start.
The midfielder is one of two players along with Ivan Perisic named by coach Zlatko Dalic in the lineup who also started in Croatia's resounding 3-0 win against Argentina.
Zabaleta, who won the 2005 Under-20 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics alongside Messi, wrote in his column for the BBC: "The happiest I saw Messi when I played alongside him for Argentina was in 2012 - he scored a hat trick against Brazil in NY and played the whole game with freedom and a smile on his face".
"The happiest I saw Lionel Messi when I played alongside him for Argentina was in 2012 - he scored a hat-trick against Brazil in NY, and he played the whole game with freedom and a smile on his face", he wrote in his BBC Sport column.
Lovren has revealed that the reserve players have twice beaten the first team in Croatia practice matches at their training base.
Argentina nearly failed to qualify for the World Cup in the first place.
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The team have been undermined by a broader crisis afflicting the Argentine game, tangled up with politics and a power struggle in the AFA (Argentine Football Association) management that broke out in 2014.
Argentina's qualifying hopes are subsequently on a knife edge, with Jorge Sampaoli's men facing a do-or-die clash with Nigeria on Tuesday.
They are all nearly certainly set to watch this final group game from the sidelines.
Before Sergio Aguero's goal against Iceland no other Argentina player had scored for the national team in 600 minutes, 12 internationals ago, and no one's scored since either.
"I would never say to my team that we're playing for a draw".
If Argentina has any shot, it will fall to Messi. The Barcelona forward missed a penalty against Iceland and then touched the ball just 47 times in the Croatia loss.
Hosts Argentina progressed to the second group stage as runners-up to Italy and looked on course for a third-place play-off against the same opponents as they entered the final match of the second phase level on points with Brazil. "We want to make amends for that loss", he said.