Martino 'won't Take Any Risks' but Expects Messi to Play This Weekend - Football News - Latest Global News

Martino ‘won’t Take Any Risks’ but Expects Messi to Play This Weekend – Football News

Gerardo Martino expects Lionel Messi to play for Inter Miami at home against DC United this weekend but stressed he won’t take “any risks”.

Messi was absent when Miami suffered a 0-0 draw away from Orlando City in their last game, which Martino described as “a small niggle”.

The goalless draw combined with FC Cincinnati’s win over Atlanta United means Miami’s lead at the top of the Eastern Conference has shrunk to just one point heading into this weekend’s games.

As Miami looks to get back to winning ways this weekend, Martino believes Messi can return, even if he won’t force the former Barcelona player back onto the pitch.

“The fact is that he felt some pain in his movements and given the fact that we are playing three games in a week, we thought the most sensible thing to do was to exclude him from today’s game,” Martino told reporters.

“The plan is for him to play on Saturday but it will depend on how he progresses. We will not take any risks and will assess his fitness on Thursday and Friday.”

DC suffered their first defeat in four games when they fell 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls in midweek, but head coach Troy Lesesne is confident the defeat will not blight his side’s solid form so far.

“We can be happy with our performance over the last three weeks, and tonight doesn’t just ruin that,” said Lesesne.

“We are still building. We can see that tonight was a setback.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Luis Suarez

With Messi sidelined against Orlando, Suarez failed to score in four straight games as he had no chance. With Messi set to miss out again on Saturday, Suarez will be keen to get back on the scoresheet to help his side win.

DC United – Christian Benteke

Benteke went scoreless against the Red Bulls despite taking six shots in the game. It was Benteke’s third MLS game this season with at least six shots, with all other DC players having done so once in league play in 2024 (Gabriel Pirani). The former Liverpool player is certainly not afraid to pull the trigger, although this time he will be hoping to hit the target with one or more of his shots on target.

MATCH PREDICTION – MIAMI WIN

DC is undefeated in Miami’s three all-time games. DC is the only opponent that has visited Miami more than once in the regular season and never lost.

Miami’s five-game winning streak ended with a 0-0 draw against Orlando on Wednesday. Miami had exactly seven shots for the second straight game, the first time since May-June 2023 that the club has had consecutive MLS games with single-digit shots.

DC attempted 22 shots and allowed 11 in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls. The shot differential of plus-11 was United’s highest in a loss by three goals or more since the 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew in April 2013 (+14).

In 2024, Miami has one win in its five MLS games (two draws, two losses) without Messi and seven wins in its nine games with him. The average goals per game in MLS games this season is 3.2 with Messi and 1.2 without him.

So Messi is clearly Miami’s star and with him expected to feature this weekend, the hosts will be favorites to get back to winning ways at the top of the Eastern Conference.

OPTA PROBABILITY OF WINNING

Inter Miami – 50.8%

DC United – 22.9%

Draw – 26.3%

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