Fire welcome Inter Miami amid Lionel Messi uncertainty

Fire welcome Inter Miami amid Lionel Messi uncertainty originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Coming off a 1-0 win over the weekend over the New York Red Bulls, the Chicago Fire now turn their attention on Inter Miami.

An Inter Miami side that will likely be without superstar Lionel Messi.

However, Frank Klopas is preparing his team as if Messi was going to play.

“I think we have to prepare for both scenarios,” Klopas said. “If he’s not on the field, they’re still a very good team. They’ve made some really excellent additions in the secondary window. With Messi on the pitch, it’s an element to their team in our game where you have a very good team but you have a player now that at any moment can turn the game upside down with one play.

“It’s a little bit of a different team, obviously, with him on the pitch. But we have to prepare both scenarios: if he’s on the pitch, if he’s not on the pitch. Our tactical organization will go through a couple of different scenarios and we have confidence. We’re playing at home and need to come out with a lot of energy.”

With the win over the Red Bulls, the Fire find themselves in a three-way tie for the final MLS playoff spot with D.C. United and CF Montreal – behind on goal difference. Inter Miami are only four points behind the Fire so a win could potentially leave the Fire in a playoff spot and would put distance between them and Miami.

While the result could have playoff ramifications for both sides, whether Messi plays or not almost seems to matter more than the actual game. Dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, he’s missed the last couple of matches, including the U.S. Open Cup final.

His participation against the Fire looks remote at the moment.

“In the case of Leo Messi, we have to look at the training,” said Inter Miami manager Gerardo Martino. “We will see if he is not at risk and we will evaluate whether it is convenient or not for him to travel or not travel.”

Messi did take part in training on Tuesday, he is unlikely to start if he does end up traveling with the team to Chicago.

With or without Messi on the pitch, the Fire are only worrying about themselves and preparing for one thing and one thing only and that is winning.

“The preparation is not going to change, to be honest,” said Xherdan Shaqiri. “We’re going to prepare as normal as always. Everybody’s excited to play against Inter Miami. If Messi’s injured or not, me personally, I’m not thinking too much about this because at the end of the day it’s a game and we want to beat Miami at home with a big crowd. At the end of the day we have to perform well and we need three points.”

It will be interesting to see how the Fire line up considering their attacking players are all healthy. There was a doubt heading into the Red Bulls game with Brian Gutierrez but he came on in the second half and should be ready to go from the get go should Klopas decide to start him.

The match against Inter Miami was one people marked on their calendars because of Messi. With the Fire managing to stay within playoff distance, there’s much more on the line.

With the Fire announcing the match is sold out, the Soldier Field atmosphere should be a good one. A good number of those in attendance may have bought tickets with only Messi in mind but now the Fire can use that atmosphere to propel them to a win and edge closer to a playoff spot.


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