Tata Martino reveals Inter Miami's plan for Lionel Messi against Monterrey

  • Lionel Messi came off the bench in Miami's 2-2 draw vs Colorado Rapids Saturday night
  • He made his first appearance for the Herons since March 13 after recovering from a hamstring injury
  • The 36-year-old missed the first leg in which Miami fell 2-1 to Rayados
Lionel Messi looks set to start against Monterrey
Lionel Messi looks set to start against Monterrey / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino hopes to have the legendary Lionel Messi back in his starting lineup after the 36-year-old's 45-minute cameo against Colorado Rapids.

Messi made his long-awaited return Saturday evening at Chase Stadium, coming on at half-time to help the Herons take the lead with a goal and a pre-assist before Cole Bassett spoiled the party with an 88th-minute strike.

Despite the dropped points for the south Florida club, Miami looked a completely different team when their superstar No. 10 entered the match. They looked threatening each time they sprung forward in transition, and they'll need to carry that same attacking philosophy on the road against Mexican giants Monterrey in the second leg of their Champions Cup quarterfinal tie.

With Martino likely to go down a more defensive and conservative route in the win-or-go-home contest, the Herons will have to make each attack count. The hosts will aim to dominate possession in front of their supporters at the Estadio BBVA, but Miami still have plenty of quality to beat Monterrey on counter-attacks.

Speaking to the media, Martino confirmed that he plans on including the Barcelona legend in his XI come Wednesday night "The idea is for Messi to start. He played 45 minutes [vs Colorado Rapids], we know how difficult the next game will be. The most important thing is he came back, he felt good, he scored," he said.

Miami, who are down 2-1 in the series after the first-leg defeat, will be the underdogs on the road against one of the best teams in the region. Monterrey have dropped just two games in 2024 across all competitions with Brandon Vazquez and Sergio Canales leading the charge for the Liga MX giants.