Fitness and availability are the biggest concerns for Cristiano Ronaldo and Al-Nassr before the Saudi Pro League side faces Inter Miami and Lionel Messi. Al-Nassr recently canceled a pair of friendlies in China based on Ronaldo’s absence. The club conceded that the majority of fans in China would have wanted to see the Portuguese star. However, a calf injury would have prevented Ronaldo from playing, so the club called it off.

Immediately, questions arose regarding Ronaldo’s status for a game against Inter Miami on Feb. 1. Also a friendly, the significance of this game centers around what could be the last time Ronaldo faces Lionel Messi, the longtime individual rival for Ronaldo. The club was not going to call off the visit from Lionel Messi. Inter Miami also scheduled a game against Al-Hilal, and the Saudi Pro League leaders defeated the MLS side, 4-3, on Monday, Jan. 29.

Regardless, if Ronaldo is unable to play, the main draw for Inter Miami’s game against Al-Nassr is out the window. Fans will want to know if Cristiano Ronaldo is at full fitness before they watch his team play Inter Miami and, more importantly, Lionel Messi.

Looking at Ronaldo fitness before facing Messi and Inter Miami

In order to keep fans interested, Al-Nassr has not stated publicly whether Ronaldo will be able to play. Unsurprisingly, reports out of Saudi Arabia claim Ronaldo is going to play and that he plans to return to training with Al-Nassr. The Saudi club did release training footage, and the video showed Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the only clip to include the Portuguese was him entering the training facility. There was no actual footage of Ronaldo involved in training. That may raise concerns over how much he is able to play on Thursday.

Other social media posts from Al-Nassr have heavily featured Cristiano Ronaldo. There is a chance the club is doing this to build anticipation for the match by showing Cristiano Ronaldo hanging around the team. In this way, it is becoming an expectation that Ronaldo plays. His absence without ample warning to fans would be damaging to Al-Nassr’s reputation in what could be a landmark moment for the league’s popularity.

The last matchup between two greats

Heading toward the end of their careers, all signs point to this being the last time Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will play one another. In total, they have played 36 competitive games and one additional friendly. In the games of significance, Messi holds the lead in results with 16 wins compared to Ronaldo’s 11. These games include fixtures in the UEFA Champions League, LaLiga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España and a pair of international friendlies. Messi holds a narrow lead in the goal department with 22 goals compared to Ronaldo’s 21.

The last time they met, though, does not feature in those statistics. It happened one year ago when Messi, then playing with PSG, faced Al-Nassr. Lionel Messi scored the opening goal before Cristiano Ronaldo secured a brace. PSG went on to win the game, 5-4.

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This contest between Inter Miami and Al-Nassr is available on MLS Season Pass. Thursday’s game kicks off on Apple’s MLS Season Pass at 1 p.m. ET. That game is at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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