On paper, it’s hard to understand why Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup opener on Friday against Liga MX foe Cruz Azul deserves American soccer fans’ attention.
After all, Inter Miami have been one of the worst teams in MLS this season, and Cruz Azul are 0-3 (and have been outscored 6-1) so far in Liga MX’s ’23-24 Apertura campaign.
But because Friday marks Lionel Messi’s debut in South Florida, this is one of the most anticipated games of the year in North America. Even if the 36-year-old Argentine star only makes a brief appearance off the bench, Messi’s first touches in Inter Miami’s black and pink kits will be remembered for years to come.
In Gaming Today’s breakdown of the highly anticipated battle pitting Messi, his former Barca teammate Sergio Busquets, and former Atlanta United star Josef Martinez against El Tri starter Uriel Antuna and Cruz Azul, we analyze what to expect amid the spectacle of the biggest star in soccer’s debut in Miami.
Betting Odds for Friday’s Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami Leagues Cup Match
Here are Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami betting lines available on top sports betting apps. The odds here reflect the three-way moneyline, where a bet on either team to win is a loss if the game is tied after 90 minutes. As of Thursday morning, FanDuel offers the draw at +250.
SOCCER · Fri (7/21) @ 8:00 pm ET
|DRV PNK Stadium, Miami, FL|
Cruz Azul Roster, Injuries, and Betting News
Cruz Azul finished middle of the pack in both Liga MX’s Apertura and Clausura campaigns in ’22-23, and have lost all three of their matches to start the Apertura ’23-24 season. They travel to Miami as a heavy underdog as they kick off Leagues Cup group play.
So far this season, they’ve been shaky defensively, allowing two goals apiece to Atlas, Toluca, and Club Tijuana. In their most recent match, last Friday against Club Tijuana, they finally scored their first goal of the season just before halftime, but surrendered the equalizer in the 57th minute and lost 2-1 on an own goal in the 92nd.
Cruz Azul appear to be healthy entering the Inter Miami match-up.
Inter Miami Roster, Injuries, and Betting News
For Inter Miami, it’s all about a player who has yet to suit up. Messi is the reason tickets for this match cost a fortune, and he’s also the reason Inter Miami will have a World Cup-like atmosphere for their opening match in this obscure competition (this is the first year Leagues Cup has featured every team in MLS and Liga MX).
Whether he will play extensive minutes is unclear, though; Inter Miami Manager Tata Martino admitted this week that Messi and Busquets might not start on Friday night.
Messi, less than a year removed from leading Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title, will easily be the best player on the pitch, and Busquets, at 35, will be the second-most talented. But if both only appear as subs, an Inter Miami side that has not won an MLS match since May 13 will need much better performances from the players who have been there all season to avoid a disappointing start to Messi’s Miami tenure.
Martino, who previously managed Messi at Barcelona and led Atlanta United to the MLS Cup in 2018, lost his Inter Miami debut 3-0 to St. Louis on July 15. But he’s expected to lead a turnaround in Miami, and Busquets probably isn’t the last former Barca teammate of Messi’s who will join this club in the weeks to come.
While the team is currently 5-3-14 through 22 matches, good for an MLS-low 18 points, DraftKings lists the club at +5000 to win the MLS Cup.
The fact the last-placed team in the league has shorter futures odds to raise the trophy than 14 clubs — all of whom have more points — speaks volumes about the impact that Messi and Co. are expected to have.
Three Inter Miami players who were starters prior to suffering long-term injuries — midfielders Gregore and Jean Mota and forward Corentin Jean — are out indefinitely, likely for the rest of the season.
Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami Props
Below is a sampling of betting props for Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami:
Anytime Goalscorer (FanDuel)
- Lionel Messi: +110
- Josef Martinez: +155
- Leonardo Campana: +230
- Diber Cambindo: +250
- Uriel Antuna: +340
Correct Score (FanDuel)
- Cruz Azul 1-0: +1000
- Cruz Azul 2-0: +1800
- Cruz Azul 2-1: +1100
- Inter Miami 1-0: +750
- Inter Miami 2-0: +1000
- Inter Miami 2-1: +750
- 0-0: +1000
- 1-1: +550
Total Goal Props (FanDuel)
- Over 0.5 goals -2000, Under 0.5 goals: +670
- Over 1.5 goals -380, Under 1.5 goals: +250
- Over 2.5 goals -118, Under 2.5 goals: -118
- Over 3.5 goals +210, Under 3.5 goals: -310
Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami Leagues Cup Broadcast Info: Where to Watch
- Date/Time: Friday, July 21, 8:00 p.m. ET
- Location: DRV PNK Stadium
Watch this match at one of the following:
- MLS Season Pass
- DirecTV Stream
Cruz Azul vs. Inter Miami Prediction: Cruz Azul 1, Inter Miami 2
It should not shock anyone if Inter Miami suffer a letdown amid all the fanfare. Their lengthy losing streak means they’re far from a lock, regardless of the opponent, and all the fanfare around Messi’s debut could prove to be a massive distraction.
The other underrated question is how much will Messi play? It’s hard to imagine him staying on the bench the entire match or coming on with too little time to make an impact, but Martino admitting Messi might not start tells me that Messi making an anti-climactic debut as a sub is a distinct possibility.
All that being said, Cruz Azul have not played well at all to start their season, and the atmosphere — plus at least some sort of impact from Messi and/or Busquets – should give Inter Miami a victory. Still, it’s tempting to take Cruz Azul, either double chance (-135 on DraftKings) or Draw No Bet (+150).
Here are a few bets available at DraftKings that are worth checking out:
- Both Teams To Score, No Draw – Yes (+150)
- Anytime Scorer – Lionel Messi (-110)
- Over 2.5 Goals (-125)
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