Brek Shea - Diego Alonso - Inter Miami - celebrate a goal
Jasen Vinlove-USA Today Sports Images

Inter Miami vs. Orlando City is more than a clasico, it's a final, says Diego Alonso

It's still in its infancy, but the in-state rivalry between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF has already shown itself to be among the league's high-stakes derbies.

That will remain the case to an even higher degree when the clubs meet at Inter Miami CF Stadium on Saturday (3:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info), as the hosts find themselves needing three points to put themselves above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference. Speaking on a Thursday video call ahead of the match, Miami head coach Diego Alonso said his club is well aware of how crucial a victory is to his team's postseason aspirations.

"This type of match is undoubtedly important, especially for the fans, but more important than a clásico is a final," Alonso said. "We're playing a final on Saturday.”

Orlando, meanwhile, have already clinched a playoff berth, but head coach Oscar Pareja said on his Friday video call that his team has goals of its own in terms of securing the best possible playoff positioning.

The Lions currently occupy the fourth spot in the East, but are within striking distance of Columbus Crew SC and the Philadelphia Union to move up the table with four games left. Making a run at league-leading Toronto FC would be more difficult, with the Reds currently eight points ahead of Orlando's pace, but it's also not unthinkable should Orlando take care of their business and get some outside help.

With that in mind, Saturday's match is still plenty big for Orlando, when you throw the rivalry implications into the mix.

"[The rivalry] will keep growing organically, with time, with games," Pareja said. "I see a rivalry that is getting more attention and even more now that they need the points to qualify for the playoffs and we need the points to place ourselves in a better spot. And it think those are the kind of games that are going to keep the rivalry growing."

Miami will have to work without Gonzalo Higuain for the contest, as the Designated Player striker was issued a red card after the final whistle of the club's last match against the Montreal Impact for a dispute with the referee.

It deprives the expansion side of their top goalscoring threat up top, but Alonso said he's confident in his side's ability to stay afloat, given that they played much of their season without Higuain before his September arrival. The club is also regaining the services of Rodolfo Pizarro, who Alonso said will be available for the match after arriving back from international duty with Mexico.

"Undoubtedly missing Gonzalo is going to be important for the team," Alonso said. "He’s a Designated Player, a top player not only in this league but throughout his career he’s been an important player worldwide. We’ve also played many games without him and we’ve done well so we trust and are confident in the players we have behind him and we will try our best to make his absence unnoticeable and help the team perform well."