Inter Miami will again be without injured superstar Lionel Messi as they look to continue on their course for the Supporters' Shield on Saturday.

Miami will host Chicago Fire with Messi absent, just as he was for the midweek home win over Toronto FC.

"Leo will continue to be evaluated by our medical staff week to week," coach Tata Martino said.

"We will see how he recuperates without taking any type of risk."

Messi suffered an ankle injury while on Copa America duty with Argentina, winning that competition but appearing to hamper Inter's title hopes in the process.

But Martino's men are still well placed to achieve their goals, starting with the regular-season championship.

With victory over Toronto, in which Federico Redondo took centre stage with two goals, Miami became the first team to reach 50 points this season.

They have achieved that feat within 24 games, joining esteemed company. The only six teams to previously tally 50 points inside 24 games have gone on to win the Supporters' Shield.

Next opponents Chicago at least head into this encounter off the back of a win of their own, beating FC Cincinnati on the road on Wednesday.

"When you come on the road and get a result like this, it's a great team effort," said Fire coach Frank Klopas.

"Certain guys are playing really well at the moment, but I still feel that everyone can give more. There's a lot more potential in there with the group.

"That's why this game on Saturday is so massive for us."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Federico Redondo

Miami may be missing Messi, but the supporting cast has consistently stepped up this season. They have had four different players score two or more goals in a match, tied for the most in MLS.

The latest of those was Redondo, scoring his first goals in MLS against Toronto. With an assist in that game, too, he will hope that is the start of a strong run of game.

Chicago Fire – Brian Gutierrez

The Fire have had just three goals from substitutes in 2024, yet two of those have been among their past three goals. The latest, their winner against Cincy, saw Gutierrez emerge from the bench to score.

The midfielder will not want that to develop into a consistent theme, however, surely preferring to play from the start. He had done so in each prior game going back to April.

MATCH PREDICTION: INTER MIAMI WIN

Chicago have actually won four of their six games against Miami, including the past three in a row.

But New York City FC are the only team to further extend such a streak against Miami, and their run of five straight victories ended back in 2022. Miami are a very different prospect in 2024.

Their stretch of scoring in 10 consecutive MLS matches is a club record, with their tally of 19 goals across those games showing the task that lies before Chicago – with or without Messi.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 64.2%
Chicago Fire – 16.7%
Draw – 19.1%

Tata Martino accepted responsibility for Mexico's "huge failure" at the World Cup and confirmed his contract had now expired with little prospect of him returning to the role.

Martino has been a largely unpopular El Tri coach, and his standing was not helped by Wednesday's elimination in the group stage at Qatar 2022.

Mexico came agonisingly close to making the last 16 at an eighth straight World Cup before they were instead knocked out on goal difference behind Poland in Group C.

After second-half goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez against Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium, Mexico were tied with Poland on points, goal difference and goals scored, having drawn their head-to-head encounter.

With the full-time whistle having blown in Poland's match against Argentina, Mexico were heading out due to an inferior fair play record when Salem Al Dawsari pulled one back for Saudi Arabia in stoppage time.

Ultimately, Martino's men had left it too late to stage a recovery, and plenty of the ire was directed at the coach, whose name had been jeered ahead of kick-off.

Told of his status as a "villain" in Mexico, Martino replied: "I can't tell you anything abut people's opinions.

"I am the main [person] responsible for the frustrations we have. I'm responsible and it's a source of great sadness.

"I assume all the responsibility of this huge failure. It's been eight World Cups this hasn't happened."

Martino's contract was to expire after the World Cup, and he continued: "I have no reasons at the moment to think the future should be different. The contract expired with the final whistle and there is nothing else to do."

Chavez was asked for his opinion later in the news conference and added: "We are the players, we assume full responsibility.

"I would say in the second match [against Argentina] we didn't fully understand what he [Martino] wanted to see on the pitch.

"We defended well for some time but didn't create enough chances."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard accepted his side did not deserve to advance with their performance against Mexico.

However, he sought instead to focus on their campaign as a whole – including the shock opening win over Argentina.

"Congratulations to the players. We did our best," he said. "Today it was more difficult for us, but we don't have to forget what we did together. I will always protect them. I'm proud of their World Cup."

Mexico always reach the last 16 of the World Cup. It is just what they do. Progress beyond that point has been the issue.

But El Tri head into their final Group C fixture at Lusail Stadium on Wednesday at risk of elimination, needing to beat Saudi Arabia to have any chance of advancing.

Tata Martino's side have shown little sign of delivering such a result so far, drawing with Poland only after Robert Lewandowski had a penalty saved and then losing 2-0 to Argentina.

Mexico are winless in four World Cup matches, only enduring a worse sequence across their first 13 finals games.

They have not scored in any of those four outings either, with 49 attempts in that time producing just nine on target.

 

Perhaps their luck will change against Saudi Arabia, who have kept only one clean sheet in 18 World Cup matches – that rate of 5.6 per cent the worst in tournament history among teams to play 10 or more games.

"While we still have a chance, we have to try to do it," Martino said after losing to Argentina. "Saudi Arabia need to try to win and score goals, and we do, too.

"I think that in life and in this case, with these players, we are used to picking ourselves up, above all when we have to. It's hard, though; it's definitely hard."

Saudi Arabia could go through with a draw, although they will have to win to ensure they cannot be impacted by the result between Poland and Argentina.

They have only made it through the group stage once previously, in their first participation in 1994.

"I hope [the Saudi fans] won't give up," coach Herve Renard said following a 2-0 defeat to Poland.

"When you are fans, you need to support your team when it's a fantastic day. But you also need to support your team to make history in the third game. I would like to see one more time a green stadium."

Mexico are unbeaten against Saudi Arabia, winning four of their five previous meetings, which all occurred between 1995 and 1999.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Saudi Arabia – Mohammed Kanno

Kanno really stood out as Saudi Arabia might a bright start against Poland, providing a goal threat from midfield as he attempted a joint-high four shots. His support will be key as the Green Falcons go on the attack again.

Mexico – Raul Jimenez

Martino played without a natural forward against Argentina, but he surely cannot afford to do so again as Mexico need goals. They have only had five shots on target, with no player contributing more than one. After coming off the bench twice, Jimenez may now be called upon to produce at a big moment.

PREDICTION

Despite their recent World Cup woes, Mexico are strong favourites to get the win they need to stay in contention. The supercomputer rates their chances at 56.4 per cent.

A second Saudi Arabia upset of the group stage is given only a 21.2 per cent shot, while the draw – which would see Mexico eliminated and may not be enough for Saudi Arabia either – has a 22.4 per cent likelihood.

Mexico fired a blank as El Tri were held to a 0-0 draw by Honduras ahead of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Tata Martino's Mexico were taking to the field for the first time since their thrilling 3-2 extra-time defeat to rivals the United States in the inaugural Nations League final last week.

Saturday's international friendly served as preparation for the Gold Cup, which gets underway in the USA on July 10.

Mexico are the defending champions, but they have work to do following their goalless draw with Honduras in front of a huge crowd in Atlanta.

With more than 70,000 fans in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Mexico had the two best chances of the match.

Carlos Rodriguez rattled the crossbar with a powerful strike in the 30th minute, while Uriel Antuna found himself unmarked in the second minute of stoppage time but saw his header sail wide.

Mexico will face Panama (June 30) and Nigeria (July 3) before opening their Gold Cup campaign on July 10.

El Tri have been drawn in Group A, alongside El Salvador and Curacao, with Mexico also set to face the winner of the preliminary match.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.