In a Major League Soccer matchup against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino has suggested that Lionel Messi may not start.
For Miami in their successful Leagues Cup campaign and Wednesday’s victory against Cincinnati in the US Open Cup semi-final, Messi has played eight games in less than a month.
In response to a question about whether Messi would participate in Miami’s first MLS regular-season match since the Argentine’s arrival, Martino stated no decision had been made.
“We’ll find out after practice (Friday night), once we’ve spoken with the guys. Since the Cincinnati game, they have just participated in a brief training session at the hotel, which has allowed them to recuperate.
For the game on Saturday at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, tickets are selling at a premium, so Messi’s absence would be a huge letdown for thousands of supporters.
Martino, though, asserted that he must not let himself to be swayed by such things.
He said, “I realize the expectations the rest of the world has to watch him.
“But I can’t take action based on it since doing so would put me in danger of making mistakes. I am just worried about whether he can play, he continued.
Martino warned that if he attempted to rest Messi, who has already scored 10 goals for Miami, he may encounter opposition from the World Cup champion.
“Throughout his career, he has always wanted to play every game, and sometimes you have to convince him to stop so that he can recover, but I don’t pay attention to external pressures when it comes to deciding if he should play or not,” said Martino, Messi’s coach at Barcelona and with the Argentine national team.
Messi, along with former Barça teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, displayed symptoms of fatigue after playing the full 120 minutes of Cincinnati’s triumph in extra time and the penalty shootout on Wednesday.
Miami’s schedule of two games per week is maintained with a Wednesday home game versus Nashville.
Martino said, “I realize we have a tremendous burden with the start of the league schedule coming off of all the cup games we played, reaching the Leagues Cup final, and playing in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
Although we have had a lot on our plates over the last month and a half, we must first examine how the players are feeling. “We have to take it seriously. Some players left the Cincinnati game with minor injuries and fatigue, so I’ll consider that when choosing the team on Saturday, he said.
Miami, which is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, is hoping that Messi can help them compete for a top-nine finish and a playoff spot over the course of the next 12 games.