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USA Today via Reuters

It’s been over two weeks since Inter Miami fans witnessed the magic of Lionel Messi. Since his immaculate performance against Nashville in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the Argentine superstar has missed both the subsequent matches because of a ‘muscle overload’ in the leg. Fortunately, his absence did not prove costly, as the Herons won both games comfortably. Next up for the Herons is a match against 14th-placed New York City. The big question mark about the game is the availability of Messi and the latest reports offer a big update on the same.

According to Gaston Edul, Lionel Messi will not be available for tomorrow’s clash. The report reads, “Leo Messi is aiming to return to play for the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The recovery times were always given for that game. He was not planned to play tomorrow”, (translated by DeepL). There were already hints of the Argentine superstar not featuring in the clash. Previously, he wasn’t spotted in group training with the rest of his teammates.

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Another report establishes Lionel Messi will next play in the CONCACAF Champions Cup against Monterrey on April 4th. Fortunately, in that case, other than the New York City game, the playmaker will not miss any more matches. This confirms that, as suspected, Messi’s injury against Nashville wasn’t the most serious or long-term. The Argentine maestro was substituted in the 50th minute despite scoring a goal in the said encounter. Per Tata Martino, it was to avoid a ‘risk’.

Interestingly, it is also very much possible that Lionel Messi is back at full fitness and Inter Miami is merely resting him for tomorrow. There are two compelling reasons for this.

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Why Lionel Messi might be rested for the New York City game?

The expectation initially was that the 8-time Ballon d’Or winner would return to action this week. However, the report as mentioned earlier suggested his comeback will be against Monterrey. Two reasons could explain this decision. Firstly, at 36, it is not wise for Lionel Messi to rush back from an injury. The star already had injury issues at the end of last season and in the pre-season, leading to a downturn in the team’s results in his absence. Sitting out of this clash will allow him more time to recover.

USA Today via Reuters

Also, the clash against Monterrey will be the more challenging encounter for the Herons with higher stakes. As it is a knockout competition, taking a scoring advantage in the home leg would be key. The first leg is at Chase Stadium, and having a fully-fit Lionel Messi could help Inter Miami stamp their authority. By comparison, their opponents tomorrow, New York City are not in the best form and have suffered 4 defeats already this season. Hence, it’s understandable which game, Tata Martino & Co., would prefer having their talisman.

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Read More: The Lionel Messi Factor Could Flip Inter Miami’s MLS Title Hopes, Asserts LA Galaxy Star