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Red Bulls wary of Miami threat in MLS clash

Red Bulls wary of Miami threat in MLS clash

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The Red Bulls ran riot against a Messi-less Miami in March

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Miami (AFP) – New York Red Bulls head coach Sandro Schwarz has warned his team against focusing solely on Lionel Messi as they prepare for a daunting away clash against Inter Miami on Saturday.

The Red Bulls ran riot against a Messi-less Miami in March, dishing out a 4-0 drubbing against Gerardo Martino's star-studded squad in New Jersey.

Fast-forward six weeks, however, and the Red Bulls are poised to take on an Inter Miami team who have surged three points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Messi's return to fitness has revived Inter's fortunes, with the Argentine superstar scoring twice in a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution last weekend.

Those goals took Messi's tally to nine from seven appearances this season, a return which helped him claim Major League Soccer's Player of the Month Award for April on Thursday.

But while Messi's presence means Inter are likely to be a different proposition on Saturday, Red Bulls coach Schwarz insists Miami can not afford to get too hung up on stopping the Argentine maestro.

"They are a team with high quality, especially with Lionel Messi," Schwarz said. "We have to defend very strong, very compact.

"It's a big challenge for us. Our preparation the whole week, in training, in our video meeting has been that we're playing against Inter Miami, not only against Messi. "We know for sure he's a very important player for them, especially in the last third."

Schwarz says he wants his team to play with the same sense of confidence that characterized their rout of Miami in March.

"It's an important topic to defend against (Messi), but it's also important that we have confidence with the ball, and that we're not thinking only about how to defend against Messi, because they have a lot of good players.

"We have to have the confidence and quality and performance in our transition moments, to use our speed on Saturday to create dangerous moments for the opponents."

The Red Bulls are currently third in the Eastern Conference standings, four points adrift of Miami having played one game fewer.

In other games this weekend, second-placed Cincinnati will look to keep pace with Miami when they travel to Orlando, who are languishing near the foot of the Eastern Conference with just nine points from nine games.

In the Western Conference, leaders Real Salt Lake host Kansas City while second-placed Los Angeles Galaxy -- who trail Salt Lake on goal difference -- face a potentially awkward trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Sounders.