The expectations are sky high for Inter Miami after Lionel Messi’s debut ended with a dramatic free kick winner in the 94th minute to against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup on Friday. But, despite that stunning goal, the Herons still needed seven saves from Drake Callender to secure the victory ahead of a tough match vs. Atlanta United. Since two teams will advance to the knockout stages from each group of three teams, Miami are well positioned to make the knockout stages of the tournament.
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With a Champions Cup spot and prize money on the line, finishing at the top of the group will be key for an easier path, while the side also works on pursuing new signings to support Messi. On Sunday, the Herons were able to acquire an international spot from the San Jose Earthquakes so that they’ll be roster compliant after adding Messi’s old teammate Jordi Alba and possibly 20-year-old Argentinian Facundo Farias from Colon as well. Due to Major League Soccer allocating a set number of international spots per team, the addition was required so that Miami’s roster build can continue.
But, really the story is, and will continue to be all about Messi. He came on for the final 35 minutes on Friday alongside Sergio Busquets, and manager Tata Martino confirmed that he’ll play more on Tuesday, though exactly how much more, and whether he’ll be ready to go from kickoff remain to be seen. Regardless this is only game number two of Messi’s soccer arrival in America, and with more Leagues Cup action likely to follow before returning to the MLS season, there will be plenty of action for Messi ahead.
Here’s our storylines, how you can watch the match and more:
How to watch and odds
Date: Tuesday, July 25 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: DRV PNK Stadium — Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Live stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Atlanta United: It will be an interesting time for Thiago Almada who won the World Cup with Messi and Argentina to now line up in opposition of him but he’ll will have to compensate for the Five Stripes’ lack of a defense. A club that resembles Miami in many ways, it is quickly becoming a lost season for Atlanta United if they can’t turn things around in competitions like this one. Facing their former manager Tata Martino, there will be plenty of reasons to put on a good showing but even Miles Robinson won’t be enough to stop Messi from scoring.
Inter Miami: After Messi’s debut, it remains to be seen if he’ll start this match as he builds up match fitness but if the match is close when he and Sergio Busquets enter, that should be plenty for Miami to emerge with a victory. With Martino and Josef Martinez facing their former club, it’s a match that will have plenty of fire off the pitch as they’ll have extra incentive to pull the Herons to a victory.
With more days of training, things will begin to click for Miami as the Herons have only lost one of their last five matches. Improvement has been slow but with the help of another goal from Messi, it’s time for things to take off. Pick: Inter Miami 3, Atlanta United 1
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