"Like a cup final": RBNY and Inter Miami desperate to keep playoff hopes alive

Audi MLS Cup Playoff hopes could very well be on the line when Inter Miami CF and the New York Red Bulls meet at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (6 pm ET | Univision, TUDN, Twitter) in a matchup between two teams that desperately need three points to stay alive in the Eastern Conference race.

Coming into Saturday's match, Inter Miami are in eleventh place, eight points shy of the playoff line with six games to go. RBNY, meanwhile, are currently in ninth place and six points adrift, putting them in near equally desperate circumstances even with both teams having a game in hand on those around them. Only the top seven teams qualify.

"You think to yourself: If either team wins this game, I think the team that wins will think 'we can make the playoffs,'" Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville said at his pregame press conference. "The team that loses have got a mountain to climb. So, it's almost like a cup final, that's the way I'm seeing it. Whoever wins this game in hand will probably get the impetus to go on and give it a go to get in the playoffs and I think that's what makes Saturday's game so good."

The last time the sides played on Sept. 17, the Red Bulls secured an emphatic 4-0 victory at DRV PNK Stadium. With so much on the line come Saturday, RBNY defender Tom Edwards said that his team will try to replicate the feat – though this could be a more grind-it-out contest.

"We feel ourselves that we want to put an early goal past them, that's what we're looking to do," Edwards said. "We know how big the game is for them, we can't underestimate them. We know they haven't had a good run recently, but they're a very good team with a lot of talented players. It's a massive game for them, it's also a massive game for us. Whichever way the game goes, if it gets feisty because of it, we're ready for whatever comes towards us."

For his part, Neville has already mapped out what he sees as the necessary point haul for his team to reach a playoff spot. The first-year MLS coach added that he envisions the biggest keys to sustaining such a run hinges on getting consistent match-winning moments from his Designated Player trio of Rodolfo Pizarro, Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi.

"We've got seven games, we need to win five and maybe draw one, to get to where I believe we should be or I believe we want to be," Neville said. "We've got to make sure that we believe we can do that. We've got the talent to do that, we've been on runs this season where we can easily achieve this. Now it's about belief. Belief that we can achieve what we want to achieve, and to do that we're going to have to sacrifice, we're going to have to do something that this football club's never done before probably, and that's go on an incredible run.

"The biggest thing from now until the season of the season, if our front players perform, we will get in the playoffs. It's as simple as that. I make no bones or apologies for that, we need our front players to perform, we need them to be ruthless, we need them to score goals, create chances."

For RBNY, the match is also a chance to turn Red Bull Arena back into a fortress during a season that's seen them drop too many home points. Once considered one of the league's most challenging venues for traveling opponents, RBNY are 5-3-5 at home this year – something the club must rectify to make a run of their own, defender Sean Nealis said.

"It's a good game, they have a lot of individual talent on the team, a lot of big-name guys," Nealis said. "I think we're ready to play against them like we were last time, it's a do-or-die game for both teams and we're excited.

"It's imperative that we win these games at home and win them convincingly. That starts Saturday, so hopefully we get that done."