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HomeSportsInter Miami boss 'optimistic' on Lionel Messi return vs. D.C.

Inter Miami boss ‘optimistic’ on Lionel Messi return vs. D.C.

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino expressed cautious optimism at Lionel Messi‘s return to the pitch ahead of the game against D.C. United on Saturday, before insisting no final decision will be made until training concludes.

“He trained well yesterday, and we hope today as well. We will determine his participation for Saturday’s game after training, but we’re optimistic,” said the coach.

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Messi failed to travel with Miami for the midweek game against Orlando City at Inter&co Stadium, after a clash with CF Montréal defender George Campbell last week left him in pain. Though initially considered a precaution, Martino revealed the decision to sideline Messi stemmed from his left-knee injury instead of a premeditated choice to rest the 36-year-old due to physical exhaustion.

“In the case of Wednesday, it was strictly the knock to the knee that left him out of the match,” Martino said. “There was no intention of resting him. He was feeling well, but then suffered the injury and could not maneuver well with his leg, it bothered him. Yesterday, the injury still bothered him. Touch to the zone was bothersome.

“In general, we take into consideration his age and physique the way we do with every player. Obviously, age is a theme with Messi but everyone deals with physical wear or overload.

“When you play three games in a week and travel twice, we have to contemplate it and evaluate it when considering the formation of the team. But his absence in the game against Orlando was strictly due to injury.”

The team walked away from Wednesday’s match with a goalless draw, marking the first time since March 2 that Miami failed to find the back of the net. Luis Suárez led the attack, alongside Matías Rojas and Robert Taylor before exiting the field in the 60th minute.

“With Suárez, we spoke ahead of the game of limited minutes,” Martino said. “Depending on how the game went, time management was a possibility. I didn’t want to exhaust him considering the week ahead, so that’s why we decided to opt for 60 minutes instead of the full 90.

“He played well for the time he played, though. He felt comfortable and concluded well. He played at maximum velocity and had no inconveniences, he went deep and defended. Suárez is in normal condition to play.”

Jordi Alba is also expected to play against D.C. United after returning from injury on Wednesday when playing around 26 minutes vs. Orlando. The Spaniard spent five weeks on the sidelines due to the right-leg injury he picked up in the 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City on April 13.

Miami heads into Saturday’s again as leaders of the Eastern Conference table with 28 points from 14 games.

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