Messi’s role still undefined for Monterrey clash – Miami boss

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino confirmed Lionel Messi’s role remains undefined ahead of the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal clash against Liga MX‘s CF Monterrey Wednesday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“We’ll define [his role] tomorrow. Today I don’t know, but he trained. We’re still defining it, we still have 24 hours,” Martino said at a media availability Tuesday.

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“Leo has an injury, and we have to manage his minutes. We have an important game tomorrow but we have to think that we’re just starting April.

“For us, this is all just starting and we cannot put the conditions of our players at risk. We will determine fundamentally what is the best for Leo and every other player, and then we’ll make the correct decisions,” he added.

Messi could return to the pitch for the first time since March 13, when he was forced off after 50 minutes of the 3-1 Champions Cup win against Nashville SC. Following the match, the 36-year-old withdrew from Argentina‘s squad due to a right hamstring injury and watched from afar as Miami faced D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC.

He finally trained with the rest of the squad on Tuesday morning, arriving minutes behind his teammates before joining the ongoing scrimmage.

But the team continues to be plagued with injuries. Defender Nicolás Freire also trained ahead of the Monterrey match, but his availability will also be “defined tomorrow.”

Defender Serhiy Kryvtsov is still recovering from the hamstring issue that kept him out of Sunday’s MLS match, while Federico Redondo, Facundo Farías, Ian Fray and Robbie Robinson remain sidelined with long-term injuries.

“We have to face tomorrow’s match with no excuses,” Martino said. “The reality is we are currently under the conditions of having difficulties with injuries that affect us from competing.

“The feeling inside the locker room is we are always one week away from a full squad, then something happens a week later. We have been dealing with situations the past couple weeks, but we have the expectations of competing well with the absences that we have. But surely when we have everyone we’ll be stronger.

Luis Suárez has been the focal point of Miami’s attack in Messi’s absence and says the squad has the quality to cope without the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“[Messi is] a player that makes a difference, we know it,” he said. “We’ll wait until tomorrow to see if he’s there but if he’s not we’ll do it like we did the other day and win the games without him. If he’s there, we’ll enjoy it more.

“We know it’s a long season, we have a lot of injuries but we have a big team and we have a lot of really good players that can replace the others. Play continues, if the team stays together and keeps going forward that’s the focus.”

Miami bypassed the initial round of the Champions Cup by winning the inaugural edition of Leagues Cup in 2023.

The team then triumphed over Nashville, holding the MLS team to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the round of 16 clash before triumphing 3-1 at Chase Stadium the second time around.