New England Revolution face Montreal Impact on Friday (11:30pm kick-off, UK time) for the right to play in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Bruce Arena guided the Revs to an eight-placed finish in what turned out to be an incredibly competitive Eastern Conference, only finishing behind New York Red Bulls in the final automatic first-round spot on a games-won basis.
Although New England has enough attacking talent to threaten any MLS side, it’s their defensive solidity which has earned them a place in the postseason with only Nashville SC (22), Columbus Crew (21) and Philadelphia Union (20) conceding fewer than their 25 goals in the East.
The same cannot be said for the Impact, however, with Thierry Henry’s men conceding an Eastern Conference-high of 43 goals during the regular season en route to finishing ninth.
The Canadian side have alternated between spectacular and shoddy throughout 2020, pulling off impressive wins against the likes of Columbus (2-1) and Toronto FC (1-0) before falling at home to Nashville (1-0).
This is the fifth time these two sides have come together this season, with the Revs holding a 3-1 lead to this point.
Image via Twitter @MLS
Where to watch New England Revolution vs Montreal Impact on TV:
- UK: Sky Sports Football
- US: Fox Sports 1
Where to live stream New England Revolution vs Montreal Impact:
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New England Revolution & Montreal Impact’s previous line-ups:
- New England Revolution (vs Philadelphia Union): Turner; Bye, Farrell, Kessler, Buttner; Caldwell, Buchanan, Bunbury; Gil; Bou, Buksa.
- Montreal Impact (vs DC United): Diop; Brault-Guillard, Fanni, Camacho, Corrales; Piette, Wanyama, Sejdic; Quioto, Bojan, Jackson-Hamel.
Luis Caicedo and Cristian Penilla are the only known absentees for the Revs with knee and foot injuries, respectively.
Lassi Lappalainen and Mathieu Choiniere are both out with long-term injuries while Samuel Piette is suspended. Victor Wanyama is facing a race to return from international duty in time to face the Revs with Henry admitting they’re preparing to play without him. Piette and Wanyama both missing for the same game would leave the Impact desperately short of a combative midfielder.
Players to watch:
- New England Revolution: With the playoffs looming large, Carles Gil couldn’t have timed his return to fitness any better. The Spaniard managed 14 assists in 34 regular-season games in 2019, earning him MLS’ Newcomer of the Year award, but has been limited to just six appearances in 2020. Even so, Gil has still managed two assists in six appearances this season, including for Gustavo Bou’s winner against Montreal during the MLS is Back tournament group stage back in July. When at his peak, Gil is one of the best playmakers in MLS and the central hub to Arena’s entire gameplan — the Revs will be counting on him to be fit enough to shoulder that responsibility on Friday.
- Montreal Impact: Above all else, Henry needs to get Montreal’s defensive shape right if they’re to stand any chance of progressing beyond this play-in round, let alone making a deep run into the playoffs. Although they’ve leaked goals, young English centre-back Luis Binks has still managed to impress throughout 2019, so much so that he’s earned himself a move to Italian side Bologna, who he’ll join in January. Binks won 24 aerial duels during the regular season (at least 11 more than any other Montreal player), while also making a team-high 56 clearances and 33 interceptions. Does the ex-Tottenham youngster have enough in the tank to pull this Impact defence together in the playoffs?
READ MORE: The world’s best football league by 2045? How ‘expansion’ is driving MLS toward Garber’s goal
MLS 2020 recent form:
- New England Revolution: LWLDL
- Montreal Impact: WLLLW
Scoreline prediction: New England Revolution 3-1 Montreal Impact
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