And then there were two. In a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since Lionel Messi arrived on the East Coast in Miami, his team Inter Miami are set to contest the first-ever final in the club’s history when they face Nashville SC in the Leagues Cup final.
The game, which kicks off on August 20, 2 AM BST, is expected to be an unforgettable encounter between two teams who are fairly recent. Nashville became an MLS franchise in its current form in 2017, while Miami’s ascent is well-known as the franchise owned by David Beckham.
No matter what happens, history will be created as neither of these teams have won silverware in their short history.
Here’s the match preview, buildup, team news, and more as Lionel Messi tries to secure legendary status at his new club after just seven games!
Inter Miami vs Nashville SC preview
There really isn’t much that can be said about Inter Miami’s fortunes and the effect Lionel Messi and his Barcelona friends have had on the team.
The squad is unrecognisable from the bumbling bunch under Phil Neville which was sleepwalking to the bottom place in the league.
Gerardo “Tata” Martino came in, Messi was reunited with his former coach and got the band back together in Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, and a time machine was in motion.
Inter Miami had scored 22 goals in their last 22 games before Messi arrived. Since his arrival, they’ve scored 22 in six. The scariest thing for their opponents is that the team is still gelling and continuously getting better.
Talking about “continuously getting better”, their opponents are no slouches either.
Nashville’s League Cup campaign has been a slow burn which has now reached its crescendo. They were almost out of the group stages, then needed to get through nervy penalty shootouts in Round-of-32 and Round-of-16. Since then, something clicked. Quarterfinals and semifinals were processions for them, as they put five past Minnesota and two past Monterrey respectively, without conceding any.
There’s lots of talk about momentum in football, and Nashville have plenty of it now. They’ve dispatched two favourites in Club America and Monterrey, now the third one is in their sights.
Inter Miami vs Nashville SC predicted lineup
Inter Miami team news
At this point, there are no prizes for predicting Inter Miami’s lineup. Familiarity breeds contempt, but in Miami’s case, it is becoming the genesis of success.
The interplays are getting slicker, the attacking movement is getting fine-tuned, and even the defence looks better than the leaky unit which began the tournament.
Martino has found his best XI and barring any late changes due to fatigue/injuries, will be expected to see the final through.
Predicted Inter Miami XI: Callender, Yedlin, Miller, Kryvtsov, Alba, Arroyo, Busquets, Cremaschi, Messi, Martinez, Taylor
Nashville SC team news
Fans of the Premier League might be familiar with Nashville’s newest striker. Sam Surridge, who was playing Premier League football at Bournemouth last season, joined the MLS outfit as a Designated Player for £5 million, a huge fee by MLS’ standards.
He has immediately hit the ground running, scoring three in three, adding life to Nashville’s silverware charge. Miami’s defence needs to be wary of him.
Besides him, Hany Mukhtar is a club legend, and the top goalscorer in club history. His 65 goals in 119 appearances dwarf second-placed C.J. Sapong, who has 18 in 80. Mukhtar will be expected to rise to the occasion and spearhead their efforts against the more fancied Miami side. USMNT international Walker Zimmerman is the leader in defence.
Predicted Nashville SC XI: Panicco, Lovitz, Zimmerman, MacNaughton, Moore, Shaffelburg, Godoy, McCarty, Muyl, Mukhtar, Surridge
Inter Miami vs Nashville SC prediction
The semifinal against Philadelphia Union was pegged as Inter Miami’s toughest test yet, and the 4-1 drubbing they handed Union was a huge statement of intent.
However, it would be a huge surprise if the final ended up being as one-sided as that game.
Miami’s defence remains suspect and Martino might look to make this a close-fought game with few chances, decided by a moment of brilliance. That’s not a bad tactic when you have literally the personification of brilliance in Lionel Messi.
An end-to-end game would suit Nashville as they will fancy their chances of going at Miami’s defence.
FootTheBall predicts Inter Miami 2-1 Nashville SC.