Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr will face Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami in the Riyadh Season Cup in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
This match marks the first encounter between the two players since leaving Europe and is considered the final meeting between these two exceptional footballers.
Al-Nassr will make their debut in the mini competition, which also includes their Saudi title rivals Al Hilal.
Al Hilal emerged as 4-3 winners in a thrilling match against Inter Miami on Monday, thanks to a late goal from Malcom. This victory gives them an advantage in this mid-season friendly tournament.
On February 8, the two Saudi clubs will face each other, and the result of that match may determine the winner of the tournament.
Currently, Al-Nassr is seven points behind Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League title race, as the league is currently on a winter break.
However, Al-Nassr finished 2023 strongly, with five consecutive wins and 21 goals scored under the guidance of coach Luis Castro.
Ronaldo has been instrumental in all five victories, scoring a remarkable 20 goals in 18 appearances this season, making him the leading scorer in the division.
On the other hand, Inter Miami, led by Messi, enters the game in poor form. They only managed to secure three points in their final six matches of the MLS regular season, causing them to miss out on the playoffs.
Despite going unbeaten in 11 out of 12 games following Messi’s debut, Inter Miami finished second to last in the Eastern Conference.
Since the end of their league season, Inter Miami has struggled to perform well. Friendly matches against FC Dallas and New York City FC ended in defeat. Even a strong starting XI could only manage a 0-0 draw against El Salvador before losing 4-3 to Al Hilal earlier this week.
This match concludes Inter Miami’s short Riyadh Season Cup campaign before they travel to eastern Asia to face Hong Kong All-Stars and Vissel Kobe.
They will then return home to play Messi’s boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys, ahead of the upcoming MLS campaign, all within 11 days.
Al-Nassr form (all competitions): L, D, W, W, W, W
Inter Miami friendly form: L, D, L, L
Inter Miami form (all competitions): D, L, L, D, L, L
The star attractions of the match will undoubtedly be Ronaldo and Messi, both expected to play the full 90 minutes.
However, Al-Nassr will be without Sadio Mane, who will not return in time from the Africa Cup of Nations. Seko Fofana’s Ivory Coast progressed to the quarter-finals, keeping midfielder Fofana in the competition, while many Saudi players are participating in the Asian Cup.
Despite these absences, Al-Nassr still boasts a talented squad, with Aymeric Laporte and Alex Telles in defense, Marcelo Brozovic in midfield, and Anderson Talisca and Otavio supporting Ronaldo in attack.
Inter Miami, on the other hand, has seen their recent friendlies marked by the presence of Luis Suarez, who joined his former Barcelona teammate Messi after moving from Gremio. Suarez scored against Al Hilal on Monday.
Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, also former Barcelona players, have followed their ex-teammates to MLS and are likely to start.
Al-Nassr possible starting lineup:
S Al Ghannam, Al Amri, Laporte, Alex Telles;
Brozovic, Al Sulaiheem;
Anderson Talisca, K Al Ghannam, Otavio;
Inter Miami possible starting lineup:
Yedlin, Aviles, Kryvtsov, Allen, Jordi Alba;
Gressel, Busquets, Ruiz;
Prediction: Al-Nassr 3-2 Inter Miami
Based on the exciting clash between Inter Miami and Al Hilal, we can expect another entertaining game. With a large crowd eager to witness the brilliance of Ronaldo and Messi, both players will play pivotal roles for their respective teams.
However, with home support, Al-Nassr may come out on top against an out-of-form Inter Miami.