Inter Miami are back in action on Tuesday, with the MLS franchise taking to the pitch for the second time in the 2023 Leagues Cup. However, standing in their way is a fellow USA team as the Herons will have to overcome Atlanta United in what should be a thrilling showdown at DRV PNK Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Unlike the visitors, the Herons have already kicked off their 2023 Leagues Cup campaign. Friday saw Tato Martino's men take on Cruz Azul in what turned out to be a headline-grabbing encounter.
This is due to one reason: Lionel Messi's debut. The newly-signed Argentine made his first appearance for the Florida side, coming off the bench in the second half of the clash with the Liga MX outfit.
Inter Miami were leading 1-0 when La Pulga came on but the MLS side swiftly surrendered their lead. Both sides had great opportunities to score and just as the tie appeared destined for a draw, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner produced another jaw-dropping moment.
The World Cup winner won a free kick just outside the box in the final minutes of stoppage time. Many immediately began wondering if La Pulga would grab the winner with the final kick of the game, and that is exactly what he did, bending the free kick past the keeper and into the back of the net, sparking pandemonium in the stands and all across social media.
Sports icons Serena Williams and LeBron James, who were present at the game, were left speechless while co-owner David Beckham was left with tears as Messi celebrated an outstanding debut. As a result, Tata Martino's men need at least a point to secure progression but will be aiming for a win over their rivals.
Messi and Busquets, who also made his debut in the win over Cruz Azul, should increase the hosts' odds of winning. Will Tata Martino get the better of his former club?
Atlanta United will want to get the better of the coach who managed them between 2016 and 2018, winning the MLS Cup during that period. This will be the Five Stripes' first game of the 2023 Leagues Cup and thus they must avoid losing straight out of the gate at all costs.
Unlike Inter Miami who are bottom of the Eastern Conference, Gonzalo Pineda's side are seventh in the table and are thus well on their way to making the playoffs. However, this does not mean all is well with the one-time MLS Cup winners.
Thiago Almada and Co. have won only four of their last 12 games across all competitions while their away form reads only one win in their last 10 trips. This is particularly concerning because the venue of Tuesday's clash is the DRV PNK Stadium
The last time these two sides met, Atlanta United suffered a 2-1 defeat. Josef Martinez, their former attacker, came back to haunt them by scoring a brace and the visitors will want to avoid something similar when they cross paths with Tata Martino.
Another interesting aspect of this game is how the visitors will fare against Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets. The Barcelona icons are yet to feature in the MLS, meaning Tuesday's game will be the first time a USA top-flight club comes face-to-face with the Argentine and Spanish legends. Do not miss this clash.
Inter Miami: As mentioned earlier, Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets have already made their debuts but this clash could see the pair make their first starts. Jordi Alba, however, is unlikely to join his buddies on the pitch as this tie comes too soon. Additionally, while Andres Iniesta has been linked with a move to Miami, nothing has been completed. Ian Fray is unavailable due to an injury.
Atlanta United: The visitors have little to no concerns in the injury department. All eyes will be on Georgios Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada, the club's top scorer and top assist provider respectively. Derrick Etienne, meanwhile, will be hoping for a start in this tie.
The recent head-to-head record favors Inter Miami, having won four of their last 10 encounters.
However, Atlanta United still managed three victories during that run, only one less than the Herons, and have a better record this season with 35 MLS points compared to Inter's 18.
The Five Stripes are winless in their last five trips to the DRV PNK Stadium, losing three of those outings.
The Herons have only one win from their last five home matches and have only three wins from their last 14 outings across all competitions.
Match details, result and original broadcast info
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