Gerardo Martino refused to comment on suggestions that Lionel Messi was saving himself for the Copa America, following Inter Miami's 3-1 defeat by Atlanta United.

Despite his 11th goal of the season - and first in three games - Messi was unable to prevent a first loss in 11 MLS matches for the Eastern Conference leaders at Chase Stadium.

Saba Lobjanidze scored in each half to put 12th-place Atlanta in control and, though Messi halved the deficit, Jamal Thiare struck in the 73rd minute to snap the visitors' nine-game winless streak.

Messi, who was back in the starting line-up after missing Miami's 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps last time out, will soon link up with Argentina ahead of their Copa America title defence, which starts in a couple of weeks' time.

Martino was asked whether he thought the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner's focus was distracted by the forthcoming tournament in the United States, where the reigning world champions will seek their third silverware in four years.

"No, I will not speculate if Messi is saving himself for Copa America because [that question has] no validity," the head coach said.

On Miami's performance, he continued: "The first feeling is that we were missing one more gear compared to Atlanta, and that was evident in the first half and during the second half. 

"It was a night where the team regressed compared to other games. I think we were very well outmatched, and they beat us well.

"The conditions were favourable, much more for us than them. But their position on the table is deceiving, and they showed that."

Ayoub El Kaabi will be the toast of Piraeus after his match-winning heroics secured Olympiakos' first-ever European trophy following their Europa Conference League success on Wednesday.

The Olympiacos striker delivered the fatal blow against Fiorentina, bundling home with four minutes remaining of extra time to snatch a 1-0 victory at the AEK Arena.

El Kaabi is the first player to score 11 goals in a single knockout stage campaign in major European competition since the introduction of group stages.

Radamel Falcao, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema all only ever managed 10 such goals in one campaign of UEFA competitions, and El Kaabi moves next to greatness in another aspect, too.

The Moroccan forward is the first non-European player to score 14 goals in major European competition in a single season, since Lionel Messi in 2011-12 (also 14).

Olympiakos have their star striker to thank after becoming the first-ever Greek side to lift a trophy in major European competition, while Fiorentina will be wounded by another failure in this tournament.

Having lost to West Ham in last season's Conference League final, Fiorentina have now lost five of their last six finals in Europe, their only success coming against Rangers in the 1961 Cup Winners' Cup.

Defeat also ended La Viola's longest unbeaten run in Europe in their history, halting a 13-match undefeated streak in abrupt fashion.

Gonzalo Pineda remains confident things will turn for Atlanta United after nine MLS games without a victory, as the Five Stripes prepare to visit Inter Miami on Wednesday.

Atlanta sit 12th in the Eastern Conference, 21 points adrift of pacesetters Miami, after failing to win any of their last nine matches since the start of April (four draws, five defeats).

Sporting Kansas City (two) are the only team in MLS to earn fewer than the four points Atlanta have picked up in that span.

However, Pineda believes the fact Atlanta are still creating chances is a major positive, saying Thiago Almada's return to full fitness will surely lead to an upturn.

Speaking after Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Los Angeles FC, he said: "I'm very confident in the team, honestly. 

"Once again I thought we created some big chances, and we didn't have Thiago available for more than 30 minutes. With that, we have our backline being stable again and we'll have our best attacking pieces together again.

"That's the confidence I have. We're creating chances and we just need to be a little bit more clinical."

Miami, meanwhile, continued their strong form with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps last time out, despite Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets all being rested.

While Messi's absence infuriated many of the 55,000 fans present in Vancouver, coach Gerardo Martino says it was important to give the Argentina great a breather, and he is expected to feature on Wednesday.

"It must be stressed that he has played a lot of minutes this season, so we had to find a moment to give him a break and to rest him for a match," Martino said of Messi.

"In this specific case, the trip to Vancouver made the most sense. We understand people's frustrations, especially because of the desire these fans have to see these players. 

"But as coaches, we have to make these decisions that are uncomfortable and that will frustrate people. Ultimately we have to look after our players and the team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Leonardo Campana

Prior to missing last week's trip to Vancouver, Messi had gone consecutive starts without a goal contribution for the second time since joining Miami last year. 

Fortunately for the Herons, Campana has stepped up, hitting back-to-back winners against D.C. United and the Whitecaps. He has four goals in MLS this term, despite only making six starts.

Atlanta United – Brooks Lennon

No Atlanta player has recorded more key passes in MLS this year than Lennon's 33, a tally only Almada can match. 

If the Five Stripes are to end their dismal run of form, he could have a key role to play.

MATCH PREDICTION – INTER MIAMI WIN

Atlanta are winless in 13 straight away matches in all competitions (seven draws, six defeats), and have now managed just four wins in their last 43 road games.

Miami, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 10 MLS matches, winning seven of the last eight. They even showed they can cope without Messi on Saturday, recording just their third win in 14 matches without the Argentine since his arrival last July (five draws, six losses).

Miami have never lost a home game against Atlanta, winning four and drawing two versus them, including winning each of the teams' last three clashes in Fort Lauderdale.

The only road win in the 12-match history of the teams' series was a 2-1 victory for the Herons at Atlanta in September 2020.

Martino's team enter Wednesday's game as big favourites, regardless of the status of their stars.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 51.2%

Atlanta United – 25.7%

Draw – 23.1%

Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez all did not travel for Inter Miami's 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps, leading head coach Gerardo Martino to apologise.

The former Barcelona trio were expected to feature for the Eastern Conference leaders on Sunday, but were rested as Martino's side triumphed thanks to goals from Robert Taylor and Leonardo Campana.

Vancouver's BC Place was expecting a larger than usual home crowd to greet the global superstars, though Whitecaps Axel Schuster apologised once the hosts got wind of Messi's absence.

With Martino subsequently leaving Messi and his former Blaugrana stars at home, the Miami boss felt it necessary to offer his apologies to the expectant Vancouver crowd.

"Obviously it is very important for us because of the absences we had," Martino said after the victory that made it 10 unbeaten games for Miami. 

"The expectation that people have. I really don't think I have to apologise, but in some ways we are very sorry for not being able to travel with our stars.

"There is a question, we have or have come without our great players. Leo, Luis, Busi, Diego Gomez and still we have competed very well."

Schuster and the Whitecaps had previously echoed Martino's apologetic sentiment on Thursday when news emerged of their absence.

"We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans," Schuster said in a statement released by Vancouver.

Disappointment followed on the pitch as Vancouver slipped to six straight MLS matches without victory.

Vanni Sartini has no problem with Vancouver Whitecaps fans who wish to cheer Lionel Messi when Inter Miami visit BC Place on Saturday, but he wants his players to ignore the Argentine's presence and focus on themselves.

Miami are currently leading the way in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters' Shield race, with last week's 1-0 win over D.C. United lifting them to 31 points from 15 games. 

Messi has contributed 10 goals and nine assists in MLS play this year, and he is expected to feature in Canada despite sustaining a knock in a training session earlier this week.

Supporters' desire to see the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner play has led to some bizarre atmospheres since he arrived in MLS, but Sartini will not tell Vancouver's fans who to applaud.

"It's like going to the Louve and saying, 'don't cheer for the Mona Lisa'. Messi is an Opera artist," Sartini said in his pre-match press conference.

"I'm going to be more excited to see David Beckham than Messi… it's a generational thing. I hope Beckham comes, even my wife will be more happy if Beckham comes!"

Changing tone, Sartini said: "We cannot limit the danger of Messi and Luis Suarez. 

"We must prevent the ball from being passed towards them and we need to be in the right state of mind. Let's forget about Messi and focus on our own performance."

Vancouver currently occupy the final automatic playoff spot in the West, taking 19 points from their first 13 matches of 2024.

Messi's Miami team-mate Robert Taylor believes the World Cup winner has made the rest of Gerardo Martino's squad better this year, saying: "Everyone knows what he

brings on the field; he scores, he assists, he does amazing things on the field, he brings us results. 

"Then in training, there's this energy around the team, he makes everyone better.

"That's because of his personality, he wants to win every game – even in training – and I think that's been lifting everyone up a lot recently."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

Gauld scored a stoppage-time penalty to earn Vancouver a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders last time out, and the Whitecaps' last five goals in MLS play have now been scored either by the Scot (two) or Brian White (three).

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has failed to record a goal contribution on two successive starts for just the second time since joining Miami last year. 

The last time Messi went three or more straight starts in league play without contributing to a goal was on his first four starts for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, between September and October 2021.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Despite progressing in the Canadian Championship on away goals in midweek, the Whitecaps are winless in their last four matches across all competitions (one draw, three losses).

Miami, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last nine, winning six and drawing three, though they were held to a goalless draw in their last road game against Orlando City.

Messi missed that Florida derby, though, and the Herons have won their last seven league matches when he has been named in their starting lineup, boasting an overall record of 10 wins, two draws and one defeat in 13 league games with Messi starting.

The Whitecaps, however, are unbeaten in their last nine regular-season games against Eastern Conference opponents dating back to the start of last season, winning four and drawing five.

The only team from the East to win in Vancouver since the start of 2021 was the Chicago Fire in July 2022. With that in mind, a draw could be on the cards on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Vancouver Whitecaps – 38.5% 

Inter Miami – 31.7%

Draw – 29.8%

Argentina are aiming to defend their Copa America title as Lionel Scaloni names a 29-man provisional squad ahead of the tournament.

Lionel Messi will once again captain the side, with Scaloni also choosing the experienced Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi in the squad.

Enzo Fernandez is called up, despite missing the end of Chelsea's Premier League season due to having groin surgery in April. Lisandro Martinez is also recalled despite only recently returning from injury.

A surprise omission to the squad is Roma’s Paulo Dybala, who has scored 16 goals across all competitions this season and earned three player of the month awards in an impressive season.

However, the forward could not force his way back into the squad after being limited to just two substitute appearances for Argentina in 2023.

Scaloni will have to narrow his squad down to 26 men, meaning three will drop out of the squad by June 12 before their Copa America opener against Canada on June 20.

Before the tournament, Argentina will play friendlies against Ecuador and Guatemala. 

Argentina squad

Goalkeepers: Franco Armani (River Plate), Geronimo Rulli (Ajax), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

Defenders: Gonzalo Montiel (Nottingham Forest), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Leonardo Balerdi (Marseille), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Lucas M. Quarta (Fiorentina), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Valentin Barco (Brighton

Midfielders: Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Leandro Paredes (Roma), Alexis Mac Allister (Liverpool), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham)

Forwards: Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Valentin Carboni (Monza), Lionel Messi (Inter Miami), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City)

Gerardo Martino is expecting Lionel Messi to play for Inter Miami at home to D.C. United this weekend, though he emphasised he would not take "any risks".

Messi was absent as Miami were held to a 0-0 draw away at Orlando City last time out with what Martino described as a "bit of a 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 been closed to just a point ahead of this weekend's fixtures.

As Miami look to get back to winning ways this weekend, Martino believes Messi will be able to return, though he will not rush the former Barcelona man back onto the field.

"The fact is that he felt some pain in his movements and, given that we're on a run of three games in the space of a week, we felt the most sensible thing to do was leave him out of today's game," Martino told reporters.

"The plan is that he'll play on Saturday, but it’s going to depend on how he progresses. We’re not going to take any risks, and on Thursday and Friday we'll assess his fitness."

D.C. were handed a first loss in four as they were thumped 4-1 by the New York Red Bulls in midweek, but head coach Troy Lesesne believes the defeat does not cancel out the previous solid form displayed by his side.

"For the last three weeks, we can feel good about our performance, and tonight doesn’t just erase all that," Lesesne said.

“We're building still. We can recognise tonight was a setback.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Luis Suarez

With Messi absent against Orlando, Suarez couldn't make it four straight games with a goal as he drew a blank. With Messi potentially missing again on Saturday, Suarez will be keen to get back among the goals to help his team to victory.

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

Benteke was held scoreless against the Red Bulls despite taking six shots in the match. It was Benteke’s third MLS match this season with at least six shots with all other D.C. players having combined to do that once in league play in 2024 (Gabriel Pirani). The former Liverpool man certainly isn't afraid of pulling the trigger, though he will be hoping this time to find the back of the net with one or more of his efforts at goal.

MATCH PREDICTION – MIAMI WIN

D.C. are unbeaten in three all-time matches at Miami. D.C. are the only opponent that have visited Miami more than once in regular season play and never lost.

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

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

In 2024, Miami have one win in their five MLS matches (two draws, two defeats) without Messi and seven victories in their nine games with him. The team’s goals per game average in MLS matches this season is 3.2 with Messi, and 1.2 without him.

Messi is clearly Miami's star man, then, and with him looking likely to feature this weekend, the hosts will be the favourites to return to winning ways at the top of the Eastern Conference.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami - 50.8%

D.C United - 22.9%

Draw - 26.3%

MLS leaders Inter Miami were held to a 0-0 draw by state rivals Orlando City on Wednesday, as they failed to spark in Lionel Messi's absence.

Messi was missing from the squad due to a knee injury, and Miami were unable to extend their winning run to six MLS games without their superstar.

Indeed, other than a few Luis Suarez attempts, Orlando had the better of the chances at Inter&Co Stadium.

Yutaro Tsukada might have won it for Orlando on his debut, but the substitute sliced off target late on.

Miami are a point clear of FC Cincinnati at the top of the Eastern Conference, and Gerardo Martino will hope to have Messi back for the Herons' clash with D.C. United.

Data Debrief: Miami's unbeaten run rolls on

They may not have taken all three points, but Miami are now unbeaten in eight MLS matches. It is their longest unbeaten streak in the competition.

Orlando, meanwhile, have failed to score in five of their 12 games this term; no team has failed to do so more often in MLS.

D.C. United coach Troy Lesesne feels fortunate to work with Christian Benteke, who is battling the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi for the MLS Golden Boot after a flying start to 2024.

Benteke has been in incredible form this year, scoring 11 goals in 10 MLS appearances to join Suarez and Cristian Arango at the top of the scoring charts, with Messi one behind that trio.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa man scored a hat-trick of headers last time out, helping D.C. recover from behind for a 3-2 win over Atlanta United. 

With Lesesne's former employers the New York Red Bulls visiting Audi Field on Wednesday, the D.C. boss will be hoping for more of the same.   

"He's incredible," Lesesne said of Benteke. "He's got two hat-tricks this year, he's on 11 goals now and he's just such an incredible presence in our team, even beyond scoring.

"He deserves to be talked about first. He is a handful, and he allows other players to come into the match and have dangerous opportunities themselves. I'm very lucky to work with him."

Benteke's form has helped put D.C. in the playoff picture early on this campaign, but the Red Bulls are three points clear of them, sitting third in the Eastern Conference.

They also came out on top in a thriller last week, with two late goals helping them overcome the New England Revolution 4-2.

One of their goalscorers, Elias Manoel, says the Red Bulls' ability to pick up results when not at their best will take them far this term.

"It was really important to keep the consistency because even though we had some unfavourable results, in some games we didn't lose as well," Manoel said.

"This consistency is going to be really good at the end of the competition."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

Against Atlanta last week, Benteke became just the second player since 2010 to score three headed goals in a single MLS game, alongside the Five Stripes' Juan Purata in 2022 (versus Toronto FC).

New York Red Bulls – Elias Manoel 

Manoel recorded both a goal and an assist as a substitute in New York's win over the Revolution last week. 

He joined Cameron Harper and Bradley Wright-Phillips as the only Red Bulls players over the last 10 seasons to come off the bench and record both a goal and assist. Will he be rewarded with a start?

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

This will be the 107th meeting between D.C. and the Red Bulls in all competitions – it is the most-played match between two MLS teams. The Red Bulls, winners of the last three meetings, have never won four straight against D.C.

D.C. have gone unbeaten through their last three games, winning two and drawing one, while scoring multiple goals in each match. An entertaining draw could be on the cards here… 

The Red Bulls are coming off a 4-2 win over New England in which they only had 33.1 per cent of possession. They have had four games with less than a third of possession and four or more goals in the last three seasons, more than every other MLS team combined.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

D.C. United – 39.1%
New York Red Bulls – 32%
Draw – 28.9% 

Oscar Pareja accepts Orlando City need to tweak their approach ahead of Wednesday's rematch with Florida rivals Inter Miami, who thrashed them 5-0 when the teams last met in early March.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored two goals apiece as Miami crushed Orlando in their third game of the season in Fort Lauderdale, one of their MLS-high eight wins in 2024. 

Miami have won each of their last five games – the latest being a 3-2 triumph at CF Montreal on Saturday – to stay three points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference, while Orlando are languishing in 11th.

Pareja's team enter Wednesday's derby in good spirits after beating the Philadelphia Union 3-2 last time out, though, and he is relishing the quick turnaround.

"This is a project where you have to be prepared every day. After this result in Philadelphia, we have to prepare the derby, then think about going to the West Coast," he said.

On Miami, he added: "There are always two ways to prepare the games. 

"Normally we think about putting relevancy on the way we do things, but obviously we have to have references on the other team.

"How can we impose our model or control them? We already have a game where we played them, and we'll try to make less mistakes than we did that day."

During Miami's last match, Messi hit out at a newly introduced rule which forced him to leave the pitch due to requiring treatment following a heavy challenge from Montreal's George Campbell.

Had Campbell been booked, the restart would have been delayed for Messi.

As he was not, Miami were forced to play with 10 men for two minutes, but Matias Rojas scored a free-kick in the Argentine's absence, kickstarting their comeback from 2-0 down.

Coach Gerardo Martino said of the incident: "With these new rule changes, there are situations that must be revised. 

"The foul was clear and was a yellow card, and ultimately it was us that lost Leo for two minutes."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro 

Lodeiro assisted all three of Orlando's goals against the Union last time out, becoming the third player in club history to tee up three goals in an MLS game, after Kaka and Yoshimar Yotun. 

The former Seattle Sounders man is also one of just nine players in MLS history to have a three-assist game with two different teams.

Inter Miami – Luis Suarez 

Suarez's goal against Montreal last time out was his 11th in MLS this season, taking him ahead of Messi in the Golden Boot race. 

The Uruguayan leads the way despite only making nine league starts, and he also scored twice in Miami's 5-0 rout of Orlando back in March.

MATCH PREDICTION – ORLANDO CITY WIN

Despite Miami's fine form, there are definitely vulnerabilities to be found – they are the first team in MLS history to concede the first goal in five straight games and win all of them.

They may not be able to rely on rescue acts forever. Orlando overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat Philadelphia 3-2 last time out. 

Since the start of last season, the Lions have won six and drawn five of their 10 MLS games when conceding the first goal. Their average of 1.1 points per game in such contests during that span is second only to FC Cincinnati's 1.13. 

Orlando are also unbeaten in six all-time home matches against Miami, winning two and drawing four. The Herons are the only team Orlando have hosted five or more times and never lost to in MLS play.

With Miami reliant on a few wonderful but ageing stars, the exploits of their recent matches may just catch up with them on Wednesday.  

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Orlando City – 52.8%

Inter Miami – 21%

Draw – 26.2%

Lionel Messi was left frustrated by being kept on the sidelines after an injury scare in Saturday's win over CF Montreal, with Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino calling for a revision of MLS rulings.

The former Barcelona superstar was visibly furious after being forced off temporarily from a George Campbell foul, with the Miami forward missing a chance to take a presentable free-kick opportunity.

New MLS regulations state players must leave the pitch for two minutes if the referee stops play due to a potential injury that leaves them on the ground for over 15 seconds.

Following the 3-2 triumph over Montreal, Martino questioned the ruling and suggested it punished the wrong party.

"There are situations that must be revised," the Herons boss said.

"In Leo's situation, he was clearly fouled. The player deserved a yellow card, which would mean Messi would've never left the field for two minutes.

"As I understand it, the team that suffered the foul was punished. With these new rule changes, some situations must be revised.

"The infraction was clear and was a yellow card, and ultimately it was us that lost Leo for two minutes."

Miami were left further aggrieved despite making it five straight wins to move three points clear at the Eastern Conference summit.

Luis Suarez failed to leave the pitch in under 10 seconds when replaced by Leo Campana in the 92nd minute, with new MLS regulations meaning the fourth official delayed the substitution for another minute.

"In the case of Suarez, we had a very important difference with the fourth referee in respect to the minute," Martino added.

"We thought Suarez exited the pitch in under a minute, he did not see it that way and so Leo Campana's entry to the game was delayed."

CF Montreal coach Laurent Courtois has been delighted by the way his players have adapted to his methods this season, though he joked he would still swap any of them for Lionel Messi ahead of Saturday's clash with Inter Miami.

Montreal sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 points from their first 10 league games under Courtois, 12 adrift of early pacesetters Miami. 

However, plenty of outside factors have impacted their start to the season, not least the fact they have played eight of their matches – including each of their first six – on the road.

Courtois is proud of the way his players have learned on the job, though he still believes there is more to come from them. 

"I keep telling them that I have no in-between. I'm either going to be your biggest fan, or really tough and really demanding. Because we don't have time to play. We don't have time to lose," he said.

"At the same time, I'm such a fan of what they've been doing, accepting the stuff that I've been asking them to do, while being on the road for three months. 

"I think they want to play soccer in the right way. I have a few codes that I think can be helpful. 

"We need together to come up with common ground to execute in this way. They're still far from what I think they can do."

However, Courtois does see one area for improvement ahead of Saturday's clash with the Herons, quipping: "I wouldn't change any of my players for any others – except Messi."

Miami trounced the New York Red Bulls 6-2 last week, with Messi scoring once and laying on five assists in an incredible performance. 

That display left coach Gerardo Martino in disbelief, as he said: "I always say this, and it's redundant at this point, but he always does something new. 

"To have an involvement in all six goals of a team's goals in a 6-2 is something that will be difficult to see again."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

CF Montreal – Jonathan Sirois

Last week's 4-1 defeat at Nashville SC was the seventh time Montreal have conceded four or more goals in a regular-season MLS game since the start of 2023, more than any other team.

Only two MLS goalkeepers have faced more shots than Sirois (55) in 2024, though he has conceded 2.1 goals fewer than Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) model suggests he should have. He will need a big performance against Messi and company.

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has 10 goals and 12 assists in eight league matches this season. No player in MLS history had reached 10 goals and 10 assists in fewer than 16 appearances in a season before.

The Argentine has also reached 25 goal contributions in 14 MLS matches overall, seven fewer than any other player in MLS history required to bring up that figure.

MATCH PREDICTION – CF MONTREAL WIN

Montreal have won six of their nine all-time meetings with Miami (one draw, two defeats), including a 3-2 victory over the Herons on March 10. 

Only New York City FC (2.22) and the Chicago Fire (2.17) average more points per match against Miami than Montreal (2.11) among teams the Herons have faced five or more times.

While Montreal are winless in their last three league games, the last two of those were played on the road.

On home soil, they are a different proposition, going unbeaten through their last six games (two wins, four draws), including a win and a draw in their first two home matches of 2024. They have only lost three of their last 17 regular-season home games dating back to last April (10 wins, four draws).

Miami, despite their star quality, have been vulnerable this campaign, trailing in nine MLS games – a joint-high alongside the San Jose Earthquakes. They cannot keep relying on rescue acts.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

CF Montreal – 47.2%

Inter Miami – 25.7%

Draw – 27.1%

Leonardo Campana does not concern himself with competing with team-mate Lionel Messi when it comes to Inter Miami records.

Campana has netted 25 goals during his time with Miami, while Messi – who joined the club midway through 2023 after leaving Paris Saint-Germain – has scored 22 times.

Only Gonzalo Higuain (29), has scored more goals than Campana and Messi for the Herons in the club’s short history.

Campana, though, shrugged off the suggestion that he is in competition with Messi to become Miami’s record goalscorer.

"No, I don't really pay it much attention,” he said.

“I just try to enjoy it when it's my turn to play. Obviously, if I could manage it, it would be incredible, but we all know that Leo [Messi] is coming up behind me very quickly, so let's see what happens."

Asked if Messi will catch up with his own tally, Campana played the question with a straight bat, replying: "As I said, Leo is coming up fast. So, obviously, it makes me happy for him, for everything he creates for the team. But my time will come.

"As I always say, having Leo [Messi] on the pitch is a positive. It's good, when he's in the national team, we feel his presence, and when he's here with us, we feel him and when he's not, we feel that too. We know what he creates on the pitch and, obviously, when he's not there we always try our best to do a good job. But as I say, Leo is Leo and always when he's not there, it's different."

Next up for Miami – the Western Conference leaders – and Messi are the New York Red Bulls, who are four points behind the Herons in the standings.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has contributed to at least one goal in 10 consecutive club matches in all competitions for the seventh time in his career and the first since 2018 (12 straight). Messi has scored in six straight league matches for the first time since January-February 2021.

New York Red Bulls – Lewis Morgan

Morgan has scored seven goals this season, including one on Saturday and three against Miami in March. Last season, Omir Fernandez and Elias Manoel led the Red Bulls with six total goals all season.

MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

While the Opta predictor is forecasting a draw, there has never actually been a draw between these two teams, with the Red Bulls recording six wins to Miami’s three, including a 4-0 victory in New York in March. Indeed, the Red Bulls have won three of their four away games against the Herons.

Miami have scored 78 goals in 36 matches in all competitions since Messi made his debut for the club last July, 14 more than any other MLS team in that time. Saturday’s 4-1 win over the New England Red Bulls was the 15th time Miami has scored at least three goals in a match in that time.

The Red Bulls are unbeaten in six straight regular-season matches (W2 D4), though the last three matches have all ended in draws. New York have had only one longer unbeaten run in league play since 2017, an eight-match stretch in September-October 2021.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 39.7%

New York Red Bulls – 31.4%

Draw – 28.9%

Lionel Messi scored twice and laid on a goal for Luis Suarez as Inter Miami retained their three-point lead at the Eastern Conference summit with a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution.

A franchise-record crowd of 65,612 people witnessed a flying start from the Revs as they took the lead within just 37 seconds at Gillette Stadium. Carles Gil pounced on some sloppy play from Miami to tee up Tomas Chancalay, who lobbed Drake Callender for the opener.

However, Miami roared back with Messi leading from the front. They had a deserved equaliser just after the half-hour mark, Messi slotting home after latching onto Robert Taylor's throughball.

Messi had his second after 67 minutes, producing another composed finish after former Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets split the New England backline.

Messi was involved in another two goals as Miami added some gloss to the scoreline late on; his first-time shot was saved by Henrich Ravas but Benjamin Cremaschi was on hand to score on the rebound after 83 minutes, then the Argentine teed up Suarez for a curled finish five minutes later.

Miami stay three points clear of Supporters' Shield holders FC Cincinnati at the top of the East, with the Orange and Blue keeping pace by beating the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Saturday.

Data Debrief: Messi rolls back the years

Ahead of Saturday's game, some feared Miami boss Gerardo Martino would opt to rest Messi after speaking of the risks of fielding the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner on New England's artificial pitch.

However, Messi came through 90 minutes with another mesmerising performance. He has now recorded a goal involvement in 10 straight club matches for the seventh time in his glittering career, last doing so for Barcelona between September and December in 2018.

Phil Foden equalled the feats of Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland when he scored his 50th league goal as Manchester City stormed into a 3-0 lead against Brighton.

Foden scored twice in the first half at the Amex Stadium on Thursday, setting Pep Guardiola's team on the way to a potentially pivotal win in the Premier League title race.

The England international's first, which came after Kevin De Bruyne's excellent diving header, came as his free-kick deflected in off the unfortunate Pascal Gross.

It was that goal that marked Foden's 50th in league football, with all of those coming under Guardiola.

That makes Foden just the third player to score 50 league goals under Guardiola while aged 23 or younger, after City team-mate Haaland and Barcelona great Messi.

Foden netted his 51st Premier League goal soon after, drilling in after City capitalised on some slack Brighton play.

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