Cruz Azul vs Inter Miami Odds & Pick | Preview For Lionel Messi’s Debut

Cruz Azul vs Inter Miami Odds & Pick | Preview For Lionel Messi’s Debut article feature image

Megan Briggs/Getty. Pictured: Lionel Messi.

Cruz Azul vs Inter Miami Odds

Cruz Azul Odds+250
Inter Miami Odds+100
Over/Under2.5 (-118 / -106)
Day | TimeFriday | 8 p.m. ET
How To WatchUnivision, MLS Season Pass
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

Lionel Messi will make his competitive debut for Inter Miami on Friday night when the Herons play the first-ever Leagues Cup match at home against Cruz Azul of Liga MX.

After more than a month of waiting, Messi's move to Miami became official last Saturday, and he joined Miami for training on Tuesday. Former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets also joined Miami on the same timeline, giving the club huge reinforcements both at the front and back of their central midfield.

The Leagues Cup is a new joint competition staged between all 47 teams in Liga MX and MLS, which will run a month-long in a format similar to the World Cup. The top three finishers qualify for next year's CONCACAF Champions League, with the winner receiving a bye to the round of 16.

Cruz Azul are nine-time Liga MX champions, most recently taking the honor in the 2021 Guardianes tournament played in the first part of that year. But, they've lost their first three of the 2023 Apertura while conceding twice in all three.

The Mexican side is listed as the "official" home team for the match, but don't get confused. The game is in Miami, with MLS venues hosting all Leagues Cup group stage matches.

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What Role Will Messi Play For Inter Miami?

The first question in all of this is Messi's match fitness and manager Tata Martino's willingness to push it so early with his new club.

Messi played 90 minutes of a friendly for Argentina against Australia on June 15, then suited up for a pair of testimonial matches for former international teammates Maxi Rodriguez and Juan Riquelme in the final week of June.

That leaves about a 3-week gap where it's unlikely he was seriously training.  And if this was a league competition — or ordinary circumstances — that would be enough for me to predict a second-half introduction in his MLS debut.

Of course, this is neither of those things. And it may be more valuable for Messi and Martino to start getting chemistry with the starting XI as soon as possible, even if it means pulling him off early in the second half and makes earning three points a little more difficult.

For what it's worth, Martino told reporters he expects Messi to be available on Friday, though he's not sure in what role.

Cruz Azul Struggling For Form

It's been a rough recent run for one of Mexico's more storied clubs. They were beaten by Atlas 1-0 to make it one-and-done in the 2023 Clausura playoffs after qualifying only for the reclassification round.

Then, they conceded twice in all three of their defeats in the recently opened Apertura, including a 2-0 loss to 10-man Atlas two weeks ago.

The good news for Los Cementeros is the return of winger Uriel Antuna — formerly of the LA Galaxy — and midfielder Carlos Rodriguez from the Mexico national team, which they helped win the CONCACAF Gold Cup last weekend.

Manager Tuca Feretti will hope that can help jumpstart a struggling attack against a Miami side that has been porous defensively.

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Cruz Azul vs Inter Miami Pick

First, some honesty: There is a giant, heaping pile of unknowns heading into this one. And unless you have inside information, it's not the kind of game I would approach with a lot of confidence.

It's not only the questions over Messi's fitness. It's also the level of seriousness with which each team will treat the new competition, especially in the early group stage before the prospect of a continental berth feels near.

My best guess is both managers will look at these group-stage games as an opportunity to tinker and solve problems for the rest of the regular season and, in Miami's case, a U.S. Open Cup semifinal and possibly final. I think that's likely to lead to slightly less pragmatism than you'd see if this were a different kind of continental competition, like the aforementioned CONCACAF Champions League.

There are two wagers I can stomach before lineups come out: A same-game parlay on both teams to score and the total going over 2.5 (+120) and Cruz Azul's team total hitting over 1.5 (+190).

These teams have combined to concede two or more goals in 12 of their last 14 competitive fixtures. Both will be welcoming attacking reinforcements, and Messi and Busquets won't immediately solve Miami's defensive issues.

The other place I see value is in the second-half market, but it requires waiting for lineups. If Messi is not in Martino's XI but on the bench, the line could move somewhat toward Cruz Azul, providing a chance to back the Herons after halftime when Messi is likely to come on. If he is in the lineup, then you could do the exact opposite in a second-half moneyline or draw-no-bet wager on the Mexican side.

Picks: Same-game parlay –  Both teams to score and over 2.5 (+120 via bet365) | Cruz Azul Over 1.5 (+190 via PointsBet)

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