Lionel Messi will not suit up for today’s LaLiga-Serie A Cup match at Michigan Stadium against SSC Napoli. The Argentinean star forward strained his right calf before FC Barcelona’s trip to the United States, which also held him out of Wednesday’s match at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The Associated Press reports that Barcelona “says Messi withdrew from Monday’s training session because of ‘discomfort in his right leg.'” There is no current timetable for his return. He had previously been on holiday since Argentina’s third-place finish at the Copa America last July.
According to Transfer Market, Messi has scored a whopping 603 goals in his professional club career (excluding caps for his national team). He has also notched 242 assists and over 55,000 minutes played.
Considered one of the best players of all-time, Messi is still going strong at 32-years-old. UEFA just named his free-kick goal against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals as its Goal of the Year.
In his place, several other lesser stars will try to fill the void. According to the Detroit Free Press’ Greg Levinsky, the match should see contributions Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Piqué and Napoli’s Lorenzi Insigne, Kostas Manolas and José Callejón.
The La Liga-Serie A Cup series is meant to expand American interest towards international soccer.
“LaLiga has recognized the importance of international expansion, especially in the United States, which is why we have dedicated significant resources through our joint venture with Relevent Sports Group,” LaLiga president Javier Tebas said in a news release. “The creation of the LaLiga-Serie A Cup is in line with our mission to create more opportunities for U.S. fans to celebrate LaLiga and we look forward to this new annual tradition to bring our clubs to America each summer.”
With Messi out, and thus one of the game’s premier draws, it may be tough for today’s match to break the U.S. attendance record set back in 2014 (also in the Big House).
Barcelona Topped Napoli 2-1 Earlier This Week in Miami
Rakitic’s scored in the second half on Wednesday en route to a 2-1 victory over Napoli. According to ESPN’s Sam Marsden, the Italians dominated the first half of play but still entered halftime tied at 1-1.
Rakitic fired home from the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining to give Barca the advantage in the inaugural La Liga-Serie A cup. A Samuel Umtiti own goal had earlier cancelled out Sergio Busquets’ opener. The two sides meet in the second leg in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Marsden added that this will be Barcelona’s last friendly, so head coach Ernesto Valverde will want to trot out most of his lineup to find the perfect group for actual competition later this month.
Back in Miami, the attendance was 57,062 in a 65,326-capacity stadium. Michigan Stadium fits 107,601. Over 109,000 were in Ann Arbor for the 2014 tilt between Manchester United vs. Real Madrid in 2014. Man U returned last summer for a 4-1 loss to Liverpool, which drew just over 101,000.
Without Messi, and against a Napoli team that hasn’t won the Coppa Italia since 2014, interest may lead to a sub-100,000 crowd.