Lionel Messi Returns to Inter Miami in a Decisive Match Against Atlanta United

The Triumphant Return and the Battle for the Eastern Conference Lead
Leagues Cup 2023: Inter Miami CF v Atlanta United
Leagues Cup 2023: Inter Miami CF v Atlanta United / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

The highly anticipated return of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami is set for the Wednesday, May 29 clash against Atlanta United at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. After a brief absence, the global soccer legend is back to lead the team at a crucial moment in the season. This game promises not only on-field action but also could set important directions for both teams in the MLS.

Inter Miami enters this duel on a high. David Beckham's team is undefeated in ten matches, with seven wins and three draws, firmly establishing themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference with 34 points. Even in Messi's absence, Sergio Busquets, and Luis Suárez, the Herons demonstrated their squad depth in the 2-1 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, thanks to goals from Leonardo Campana and Robert Taylor.

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The Argentine star remains a central figure, with 22 goal contributions this season (10 goals and 12 assists). Although he has been kept off the scoresheet in the last two games, Messi's presence on the field is always a constant threat to any opponent. The return of Federico Redondo from a knee injury also strengthens Inter Miami's midfield, while Diego Gomez is recovering and could be available soon.

On the other side, Atlanta United faces a crisis. After a promising start, the team has entered a negative spiral, accumulating a nine-game winless streak (five losses and four draws), leaving them in 12th place with just 13 points. The pressure on coach Gonzalo Pineda has significantly increased. The latest 1-0 loss to LAFC only aggravated the situation, especially with goalkeeper Brad Guzan's red card, forcing Josh Cohen to take the starting spot against Inter Miami.

Atlanta United has also been dealing with injury problems. Thiago Almada, one of the team's stars, recently returned from injury but is still regaining his game rhythm. Giorgos Giakoumakis, the team's top scorer, has been out for two weeks due to an injury, and there are rumors of a possible transfer to Mexico's Cruz Azul. Bartosz Slisz is also absent, representing Poland in Euro 2024.

For Inter Miami, this game is an opportunity to consolidate their lead position and continue their impressive unbeaten streak. Messi's return is not only a moral boost but also a chance to revive the offensive magic the team has shown throughout the season. With back-to-back games against Atlanta United and St. Louis CITY SC this week, Inter Miami has the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table.

For Atlanta United, it is a do-or-die game. A victory could be the turning point needed to get out of the crisis and revive their hopes for the season. However, facing an in-form Inter Miami, especially with Messi on the field, will be a significant challenge.