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Miami boss Martino yet to decide if Messi, Busquets start Friday

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Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets might not start on Friday but they will likely get minutes in Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup match vs. Cruz Azul, coach Tata Martino told Argentina’s “ESPN Fútbol 12” on Wednesday.

“From what I have seen up to now they are going fit to play and it is likely that on Friday they can be there,” Martino said. “Whether that will be as starters or coming in at the half, we will have to make that decision yet, but as I see it, Leo as well as Busi can play [on Friday].”

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Both Messi and Busquets completed their first training session with the MLS club on Tuesday, but Wednesday was the first time Martino officially spoke regarding their fitness for this match against Cruz Azul, a very competitive Liga MX club.

Despite the lack of assurances, fans turned out to buy tickets for the match at prices ranging from $275 to $19,000.

Three days ago, Messi, the World Cup winner and seven-time Ballon d’Or recipient, signed a 2½ year contract that will pay him between $50-$60 million a year.

Martino said that despite all of Messi’s accolades, he thinks the Argentina captain is not in Miami to take it easy, and that he will still be a fierce competitor.

“What has not changed is his desire to continue competing and winning,” Martino said. “I think it shows a very salient trait Leo has as a football player. His perpetual desire to compete and win. I think that winning the World Cup took a great weight off his back.

“But someone I admire a lot told me that he is coming to MLS carrying an empty suitcase but without all the pressure he had in Barcelona in 2010-2011 or the pressure of the national team. Now, I think I am going to find a very competitive version of him because he has the need to win wearing this shirt now, because he has not won here yet.”

Inter Miami hasn’t won an MLS match in more than two months; it has gone 0-8-3 in MLS play since beating New England Revolution on May 13, so making the playoffs are a long shot.

But Friday’s Leagues Cup tournament, between teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, opens the door for Inter Miami to get back on track.

Heading into the game with a 0-0-3 start to the Liga MX season, Cruz Azul, is the current team in crisis in Mexican football with just one goal scored in 270+ minutes of play in the Apertura.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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