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Riqui Puig looks forward to Los Angeles derby and Messi’s arrival

The LA Galaxy midfielder spoke to AS USA about Tuesday’s derby against LAFC and the new additions to the Inter Miami roster.

Riqui Puig: 'Messi and Busi can give a lot to this league'
Armando ArorizoEFE

In little over a year since making the move to LA Galaxy, former Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig has become one of the top players in MLS. However the Galaxy, the most successful team in MLS history, have struggled severely this season and currently find themselves 13th in the Western Conference.

In their last outing they managed a 2-2 draw in the Cali Clásico against the San José Earthquakes. This extended Galaxy’s unbeaten streak to five games, but only one of them has been a win. Greg Vanney’s team is in need of three points and they face city rivals LAFC on Tuesday, 4 July.

“The truth is that it’s always a very important game for the Galaxy”, Riqui Puig said in an exclusive interview with AS USA Latino.

“As a player, I have seen that it is one of the most important matches in MLS and the truth is that I am really looking forward to facing the new challenge.”

“The Galaxy have been here for many years and now there is another team in the city to make this big rivalry. I’m really looking forward to the game and to see if the team can get three much-needed points,” Puig added.

The El Tráfico fixture between LA Galaxy and LAFC was initially intended to be the curtain-raiser for the 2023 season but it was postponed due to heavy rain. The rescheduled fixture has the prestigious billing of Independence Day at the Rose Bowl, with more than 80,000 people expected to be in attendance.

Puig welcomes Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets

The Catalonia-born midfielder has proved a perfect fit for LA Galaxy’s style of play. Puig made his first team debut for Barcelona in 2018/19, featuring occasionally for the team that would go on to win LaLiga that season.

At the time the Barcelona captain was Lionel Messi, with Sergio Busquets serving as the vice-captain. Pretty soon, Puig will be reunited with both those former teammates in the MLS.

Ahead of the LAFC match Puig sounded enthusiastic about the imminent arrival of Messi and Busquets and optimistic about the effect that their introduction will have on MLS.

“I think it is a league with a great future. Now that Leo [Messi] and [Sergio] Busquets have arrived... I think they can give a lot to this league and the league can give them a lot,” Puig said. “I think it’s a spectacular place to learn, or to finish the great careers that they have. I’m very happy for them. I have been able to speak with Busi and he is very happy”.

“What I liked the most is that there is a high level in this league because all the teams can beat anyone and it is a league where there is a lot of competition.”

However Puig admitted that there were some parts of life in the States that had not come quite so naturally. For a player who grew up in Europe the scale of the away trips in MLS, often across time zones, was an issue for him initially.

“The thing I dislike is the trips and the time changes. I think that for a player sometimes resting well is very difficult, that’s one of the things that have been difficult for me to adapt to,” Puig admitted.

LA Galaxy missing key players for the season

In the absence of experienced stars Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández and Martín Cáceres through injury for the rest of the year, Galaxy’s hopes of reaching the playoffs will likely depend on Puig’s performances.

In conversation with AS USA Latino, Puig admitted that Chicharito’s absence would be a major loss for the team.

“Javi [Hernández] gives us everything and more in attack,” the 23-year-old said. “He is the top scorer for the Galaxy and it shows. We really need the entire squad since we have lost two very important players, we’ll see if a reinforcement arrives in the transfer window.”

Chicharito Hernández anuncia su salida de LA Galaxy
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LA Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez picked up a serious knee injury against Real Salt Lake last month.Gary A. VasquezUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“I really want to play tomorrow,” Puig added. “I think we deserve a victory, in the match we played there we took a step forward,”

Tuesday’s game will be the second time that Riqui Puig has appeared at the Rose Bowl. The first came in a friendly with Barcelona, defeating Tottenham Hotspur in the International Champions Cup in 2018.