Messi teammate: Everyone plays Leo like a final

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Inter Miami CF defender Marcelo “Chelo” Weigandt said he expects a difficult match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at Chase Stadium, adding that when Lionel Messi is on your team, opponents treat each match like it’s a final.

“We expect them to play the same intense way. When we have Leo, every team plays against us like it were a final,” Weigandt said. “And we have to play every game like it’s a final to try if we want to achieve what we aspire to. But the team looks good, we’re happy and we work hard throughout the week.

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“They give us ideas and we try to execute them on the pitch,” added Weigandt when speaking to the media ahead of Thursday’s training session.

Miami last faced the Red Bulls on March 23, falling 4-0 without Messi. The Argentine striker failed to travel with the team because of a right hamstring injury, leaving head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino to depend on Luis Suárez and Leo Campana.

Messi is available for selection on Saturday and is expected to see time on the pitch playing as a No. 9.

“We’ve talked about [Messi playing as a No. 9] and I think recuperating Leo in those points of the pitch is a great point for us,” Martino said. “He doesn’t exhaust himself coming and going, not that he can’t do it, he can move anywhere he wants on the pitch, but we shouldn’t deprive ourselves from the moment of his participation in the final moments of the play.

“Beyond being the greatest player in the world, he’s a great goal scorer. So, we need to try to find him in different phases of the game. If he participates in every part of our attack, we have more opportunities.”

Since Messi’s return from injury April 6, he has contributed with six goals and four assists — and Miami has not lost a game in which the World Cup winner has played. Off the field, Weigandt said, Messi continuously inspires the younger players to strive for greatness.

“Honestly it’s been extraordinary [playing with Messi], Leo is very humble and simple. He’s a great person, and compliments the team well. He talks to us to inspire us. It’s something so nice, that someone so important notices every detail of the group and the club, he makes us more professional,’ said Weigandt, who joined Miami on loan from Boca Juniors in March.

“He’s taught me to have my feet on the ground. He’s a person you can talk to, and get advice from. He helps. One is intimidated at first, has shame, but in the day-to-day, it’s incredible.”

Miami leads the Eastern Conference table with 21 points in 11 games.

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