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2023 Leagues Cup final preview: Messi seeks first silverware with Inter Miami up against Nashville SC

Lionel Messi can claim his first piece of silverware with Inter Miami, who face Nashville SC in the Leagues Cup final this weekend.

Messi made his Inter debut in their opening game of this competition and scored a late winner with a sublime free kick after entering the action as a second-half substitute against Cruz Azul.

The Argentine star has scored in each of his six Inter appearances - recording nine goals in total - to guide the Florida club to the final. 

Messi now has a chance to claim his first trophy for Miami in his seventh game with the club.

Nashville won just one of their first four games in normal time in this competition. They have found their form, scoring seven goals without conceding in their two most recent matches.

Inter are rated as the -188 favorites to win the Leagues Cup outright, while Nashville are +137.

WhatNashville SC v Inter Miami CF
WhereGeodis Park, Nashville, Tennessee
When9 PM ET, Saturday, August 19th
How to watchApple TV
OddsNashville +137, Inter Miami -188

Nashville firing after slow start

Nashville have looked like serious contenders for overall MLS glory in the first half of the season but it took a while for their Leagues Cup campaign to click into gear.

The Boys in Gold edged out MLS strugglers Colorado Rapids 2-1 in their opener. That proved enough to secure their spot in the knockout stages despite losing 4-3 to Mexico’s Toluca.

Nashville needed penalties in their first two elimination games against MLS pacesetters Cincinnati and Mexican outfit Club America. 

They advanced further thanks to an impressive 5-0 demolition of Minnesota United in the quarterfinals.

The Tennessee club then overcame Monterrey 2-0 in the semifinals to seal their place in the final.

Messi sparks Inter Miami

Miami needed Messi’s late winner to overcome Cruz Azul in their first match. The Herons then eased their way into the knockout stages with a 4-0 win over Atlanta United.

Inter then downed Florida-based rivals Orlando City 3-1. They were given a real scare in the last 16 as they fought back from 3-1 and 4-2 deficits to draw level with FC Dallas before winning on penalties.

Miami overcame Charlotte 4-0 in the quarterfinals and then sent a message to the rest of their domestic opponents with a 4-1 demolition of last season’s MLS Cup runners-up Philadelphia Union in the semifinals.

No new injuries for either side

Neither side has any new injury or suspension concerns ahead of Saturday’s final.

Nashville remain without forward Nick DePuy, who is yet to play for the club since his offseason arrival from LA Galaxy due to an Achilles injury.

Gregore, Jean Mota, Franco Negri and Corentin Jean are all unavailable for Inter Miami but none of those players have featured in the Leagues Cup due to their respective injury issues.

Messi magic can inspire Miami yet again

Inter Miami have toiled through the first half of the season in MLS as they sit rock bottom of the Eastern Conference with just 18 points from 22 games. 

Yet Miami looks like a different team since the arrival of Messi and his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

The ease with which the Herons brushed aside a strong Philly outfit suggests they should have too much for their opponents on Saturday, despite being the away team at Nashville's Geodis Park. Miami is -188 to win.

Nashville, +137 to win, will be fired up by the prospect of facing Miami and hosting a team with Messi. 

New Nashville striker Sam Surridge, who joined from Nottingham Forest, is +220 to score anytime and has scored in all three of his appearances. 

Both teams to score is -200 and a Miami win with both teams to score is +220.

Messi has scored in all of his appearances for Inter so far, hitting nine goals in just six games, and he is -125 to score anytime. He is +187 to open the scoring, which he has done three times in the competition.

Miami’s Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez has three goals and two assists in his last four games and he is another scorer option at +187.

Hany Mukhtar, last season's MLS MVP, is +125 to score anytime.

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