Here is what you need to know about Inter Miami’s game Sunday against Atlanta United

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Inter Miami coach Phil Neville spent a year playing alongside Atlanta United coach Gabriel Heinze at Manchester United, so he knows the type of clash to expect when their teams meet Sunday afternoon at DRV PRK Stadium.

Although Atlanta is winless in its past three games, Neville anticipates a motivated United team with dangerous players like 2018 league MVP Josef Martinez and Santiago Sosa ready to pounce if Miami gets sloppy. He remembers Heinze, the former Argentine defender, for his intensity.

“You always say the team mirrors the manager,” Neville said. “The year I spent at United with Gabi he was a ferocious competitor. Every single day seemed like a Cup final for Gabi in terms of his training style, and the way he approached and played games. He was fearless. He was a real aggressive player. He left nothing on the field. His winning mentality stood out more than anything.”

Both teams are 1-1-1 in league matches heading into Sunday’s game (1 p.m., ABC, ESPN Deportes). And both teams will be missing important players.

Miami will be without starting defender Nico Figal (hamstring injury), starting left winger Robbie Robinson (hamstring injury) and backup forward Julian Carranza (vertigo). Atlanta is expected to be without injured winger Jurgen Damm and midfielder Ezequiel Barco.

Miami lost its home opener and will be eager to win in front of the home crowd of 8,000. The team will also be energized by the return of the Higuain brothers after the death of their mother.

Atlanta could be tired, coming off four games in 14 days. After beating the Chicago Fire 3-1 in a league game, Atlanta lost 3-0 to Philadelphia Union in CONCACAF Champions League, lost 2-1 to New England Revolution in a league game and tied Philadelphia 1-1, which eliminated them from the Champions League quarterfinals.

“They’ve had a real tough schedule with the Champions League fixtures they’ve had, they’ve been on the road quite a bit, so I think that’s why you’ve seen the results they’re getting,” Neville said. “But every time I watch them play, I think they’ve got really good players, exciting players, players that can cause you damage. It’s going to be a real difficult game for us.”

With Figal unable to play, some of the defensive burden will fall on seldom-used Christian Makoun. The 21-year-old Venezuelan played four games last season, started twice and spent the latter part of the season with the club’s USL Fort Lauderdale team.

“Christian’s X-factor is the fact that when you’re a left-footed left center back you’re a real good option in terms of the build; when you come out with the ball and you’re left-footed that’s where he will help the team immensely,” Neville said.

Makoun has been playing more aggressively of late and is becoming more vocal, Neville said.

“With people like Christian who have been knocking on the door so long, there comes a point where you’ve eventually got to put them in and trust them,” the coach said. “We could easily put [midfielder] Gregore back there, he’s played there in the past. But my feeling is that now is Christian’s time to go in and see if he can deliver.”

The return of Gonzalo and Federico Higuain is significant for Miami.

“When Gonzalo’s in the box he’s as good as anyone in the league as far as finishing ability,” Neville said. “We had seven days without the Higuains last week and when you take those players out of training, you miss that kind of quality. You don’t realize how good of players those two are.”

After a disappointing debut season, Gonzalo Higuain has two goals and an assist in two games — doubling his output over nine games in 2020.

“He’s as motivated as I’ve seen, knows what he has to do,” Neville said of Higuain. “Even in the first day of preseason, the accountability he showed, he said to the rest of the team `I need to do better, I will perform this year’. We’ve already seen in the two games he played this year — he’s performed. We just need that for three games next week and the rest of the season.”

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