MLS

Inter Miami v Nashville SC: Smith not looking forward to Messi reunion

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith is not looking forward to his team facing Lionel Messi for the third time this year, with the Inter Miami star fit and firing ahead of Saturday's MLS clash in Fort Lauderdale.

A hamstring issue caused Messi to spend almost a month on the sidelines before he returned with a goal in Miami's 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids earlier this month.

The Argentina great was then on the scoresheet again last weekend, as Miami ended a five-game winless run with an entertaining 3-2 success against Sporting Kansas City.

With Messi also scoring in both legs of a CONCACAF Champions Cup triumph over Nashville in March, Smith is sick of the sight of the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I'm a little bit disappointed that Lionel Messi has gotten himself back into tip-top sharp form as we come back into town again!" Smith said.

"I think that what we can safely say is when he's in the group, there's a very, very different feel and look and inspiration about that team."

Nashville are winless in three games since beating Charlotte FC 2-1 last month, with Daniel Gazdag's last-gasp strike condemning them to a 2-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union last time out.

Smith believes his team are at least giving themselves a chance of picking up results, adding: "When we've got our best group on the field — and we need to have our best group on the field — we're very competitive."

Miami's win over Kansas City ensured they will enter the weekend top of the Eastern Conference standings, and boss Gerardo Martino is pleased to see them setting the pace.

"Being first in the standings is comforting, especially with a long week ahead," Martino said. "It was very important for us to get out of that rut of getting ties, losses, and making mistakes."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has been involved in at least one goal in each of his first five league games of the season, the second time he's done so in his career, having achieved the feat in six straight matches with Barcelona to begin 2013-14 in LaLiga.

The Argentine has also managed at least one goal involvement in each of his eight appearances for Miami across all competitions in 2024, including two goals and one assist in two matches against Nashville.

Nashville SC – Jacob Shaffelburg

Shaffelburg has assisted each of Nashville's last two MLS goals, one in each of their last two matches.

Previously, he had only recorded one assist in his first 40 regular-season matches with Nashville. Will his purple patch continue in Florida?

MATCH PREDICTION – INTER MIAMI WIN

Nashville have only managed one win in their last 15 away games against MLS opponents across all competitions (six draws, eight defeats).

That run, which stretches back to June 2023, includes a draw and a loss against Miami, who are also unbeaten in five straight head-to-head meetings between the teams (two wins, three draws).

Last week's 3-2 win over Sporting KC was the 11th time Miami have scored three or more goals in their 22 games with Messi making an appearance, across all competitions. They have only scored three or more goals on 15 occasions in their 134 all-time games without the Argentine. He should be involved on Saturday, and that makes them favourites. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 36.6%

Nashville SC – 33.8%

Draw – 29.6%

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