September 17, 2023 | 10:11am
MIAMI, United States – Lionel Messi is suffering from “muscle fatigue” and will not be rushed back, Inter Miami coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said on Sunday (Manila time) after his team’s playoff hopes suffered a blow with a 5-2 thrashing at Atlanta United.
Messi and his former Barcelona team-mate Jordi Alba both sat out the game with Martino saying it would have been “very reckless” for the Argentine to play in Atlanta.
Martino said that his focus was on having his team ready for the September 27th final of the US Open Cup when Miami host Houston as they look for their second trophy of the season.
“They will train tomorrow (Sunday) and we will see day by day. Nothing changes our outlook on how he (Messi) will train. We have no urgency,” said the former Barcelona and Argentina coach.
Miami face Toronto, the only team below them in the Eastern Conference, at home in MLS action on Wednesday.
“If he is well and confident he can get to play and if this doesn’t happen he will wait a few more days,” Martino said.
Miami’s loss was their first in 12 games in all competitions since Messi and Spanish pair Alba and Sergio Busquets joined the team in July.
The defeat makes it tougher for Miami to climb into the top nine in the East which would ensure qualification for the playoffs.
“This defeat hurts us and reduces our chances but it is not decisive,” said Martino, who said the US Open Cup remains a priority.
“The final is one game. It’s very tempting to go for a title,” Martino said.
“We started the (playoff) race very far back, we are not going to abandon it but our sights are set on the (Cup final on the) 27th,” he said.
The 36-year-old Messi had also sat out Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday but he travelled and watched his team-mates from the bench.
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