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Odds taken from bet365.
Pick: Inter Miami to win
Nashville SC have been the dark horses of the 2023 Leagues Cup and are now one step away from securing their first piece of silverware. The club has come perilously close to elimination at almost every round of the competition, but somehow, they have survived and have reached the penultimate stage. Their performance against Mexican side CF Monterrey may not have been dominant, but at the end of the day, Nashville SC walked away with a win and a clean sheet against one of the best sides of Liga MX.
The next and final hurdle between Nashville SC and the Leagues Cup trophy is Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami. Gerardo Martino’s side will certainly be the most formidable opponent for the Gary Smith-led club. Inter Miami have been scoring goals for fun and have racked up comfortable wins since the beginning of the competition.
They eliminated the prolific Philadelphia Union in the semifinals after smashing four goals past the 2022 MLS runners-up. The momentum is with Inter Miami, and they have been amongst the top favorites since Messi’s arrival.
Nashville SC may be a strong side, but it comprises players who lack the experience of playing in a high-octane final. Meanwhile, the trio of Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Messi know how to handle pressure at the biggest stage. It will not be an overwhelming occasion for the trio, and that will give Inter Miami a massive advantage and the win against Nashville SC in the final.
The two relatively new clubs in the MLS have met eight times in the past. One of those meetings took place in the US Open Cup this season, only a few days after the two clubs played each other in the MLS.
Nashville SC have the better head-to-head record as they have won four of the eight games. Meanwhile, Inter Miami have only won two, one of which came in the US Open Cup after goals from Franco Negri and Nicolas Stefanelli secured a 2-1 win over Nashville SC.
Inter Miami’s only other win over their next opponents came in 2021. Gonzalo Higuain struck the equalizer at the hour-mark before Indiana Vassilev sealed the three points in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time.
Four of the last five encounters between these two sides have been played at the DRV PNK Stadium. Nashville SC won the game that was played at Geodis Park. Fabrice Picault and Lukas MacNaughton were on target in that game.
Nashville SC have reached the final of the 2023 Leagues Cup, and it is an outstanding achievement for a club that was founded only seven years ago and started playing in the American top division in 2020.
The 2023 Leagues Cup campaign started with a slender 2-1 win for Nashville SC against Colorado Rapids in an almost evenly matched game. After that, the club was dominated by teams like Toluca, FC Cincinnati, and Club America.
Their only commanding victory in this competition came in the quarterfinals when they thrashed Minnesota United 5-0. In the last round, they let CF Monterrey have more of the ball and faced more shots. This tactic may not work against a prolific Inter Miami side.
Nashville SC will aim for their third consecutive shutout when they take on Inter Miami. Considering their opponents' form, it will be an extremely difficult task, but if any backline is capable of keeping Messi and Co. at bay, then it is Nashville SC’s.
The center-back duo of Walker Zimmerman and MacNaughton has been robust at the back. Full-backs Daniel Lovitz and Shaq Moore have also been quite steady down the flanks. In goal, Elliot Panicco produced crucial saves against CF Monterrey and will have to do the same one more time.
The Nashville SC supporters witnessed a roller-coaster of emotions during the enthralling semi-final encounter against CF Monterrey. In the first half, a stunning effort from Hany Mukhtar curled into the far post, but the goal was controversially disallowed for offside.
In the second half, Nashville SC benefitted from what may have been a wrong decision. MacNaughton brought John Medina down in the box as the defender tried to make his way in from the right flank. However, the referee did not award a penalty after a VAR check.
The new arrivals at Inter Miami have changed the entire scenario at the club. Struggling in the MLS at the foot of the table, Inter Miami are now just a step away from claiming their first major club trophy since their inception.
The team may have avoided some big teams in the group stage and initial knockout rounds, but a resounding win against Philadelphia Union in the semifinals proved that Inter Miami have turned into a top, competitive side in the tournament.
There have been no signs of complacency in the team since the quarter-final stalemate against FC Dallas that needed a penalty shootout to decide the outcome of the game. Even the semi-final was not as tightly contested as the quarter-final was, making Inter Miami the favorites to win the 2023 Leagues Cup.
Inter Miami are not just back to winning ways. They are finishing them with convincing scorelines. In the last three games, the club has scored four goals. Inter Miami have scored less than three goals in only one match in the 2023 Leagues Cup.
Former Leagues Cup winners Cruz Azul were the only side to escape the attacking wrath of Inter Miami as they suffered a 2-1 defeat against Messi and Co. Inter Miami have scored 21 goals in just six games. They are looking to carry this form into the MLS season after winning the Leagues Cup trophy.
Since joining Inter Miami, Lionel Messi has made six appearances. In those six appearances, the Argentine has scored nine goals and provided one assist. The prolific record has placed him at the top of the 2023 Leagues Cup goalscorers’ chart.
Minnesota United’s Bongokuhle Hlongwane is in second with seven goals, and Denis Bouanga is third with six goals. However, both of these players cannot add to their tally, and the path to the tournament’s Golden Boot award is clear and smooth for Messi.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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