Lionel Messi and Inter Miami's play-off dream dealt hammer blow as Xherdan Shaqiri brace propels Chicago to 4-1 win

Toronto FC v Inter Miami CF
Lionel Messi (via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami's hopes of a play-off spot in the 2023 MLS season were dealt a crushing blow after the Herons suffered a 4-1 defeat to Chicago Fire on Wednesday (October 4).

Chicago Fire star and former Liverpool winger, Xherdan Shaqiri netted twice in the match in front of a record home crowd of over 60,000. The Switzerland international opened the scoring in the 49th minute, following which Josef Martinez equalized from the spot (53').

However, the home side hit back with three goals after Martinez's strike, with two coming from Maren Haile-Selassie in the 62nd and 65th minutes. Shaqiri capped off the performance by scoring his second of the match in the 73rd minute.

Currently, Inter Miami are placed 14th in the Eastern Conference, five points short of the final play-off spot. With the side scheduled to play table-toppers FC Cincinnati in one of their final three league matches, a spot in the playoffs seems highly unlikely.

Messi's absence has certainly affected the Miami-based outfit's results off-late. From the last five matches in which the 36-year-old has failed to appear, Inter Miami have lost three and drawn two fixtures across competitions.

The Argentine icon missed this match due to injury, and a potential return date for him is currently unknown. However, manager Gerardo Martino clarified that the former Paris Saint-Germain forward is closing in on a return.

Sergio Busquets reacts as his Inter Miami teammate Lionel Messi misses loss to Chicago Fire

Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets (via Getty Images)
Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets (via Getty Images)

Sergio Busquets reacted to Inter Miami teammate Lionel Messi missing the club's 4-1 defeat to Chicago Fire on Wednesday (October 4). The Spain international understands his colleague's value, having already played with him for several years at Barcelona.

Appearing together in the USA and at Camp Nou, the duo have shared the pitch on a staggering 578 occasions, managing 23 goal contributions together across all competitions.

Speaking after Inter Miami's latest MLS defeat, Busquets said (via Goal):

"The first person who wants Leo (Lionel Messi) to be on the field is Leo. Second is us, his teammates, because we know how important he is for us. It’s a shame, but in the world of football you can’t control injuries."

Although Herons coach Gerardo Martino claims Messi is close to a return, he remains in doubt for the club's upcoming league fixture against FC Cincinnati on October 7.

The Miami-based side will be hoping that Messi can appear before the club plays Charlotte in its last match of the regular season on October 21.

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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