The semi-finals of the conference playoffs get started this weekend, and Columbus Crew will welcome New England Revolution for the first-leg of their Eastern Conference clash on Saturday night (20:00 GMT).
The Crew ended the regular season just three points behind the second-placed Revs but beat them in two of the three games over the course of the season, and will be looking to get off to a great start in the home leg.
Columbus’ home form: Played 17 – Won 9 – Drawn 4 – Lost 4
Columbus won their last seven home games of the regular season so they will be confident, though interestingly the only loss they suffered in their final eight matches was away at New England.
The Revs only lost one of their last twelve, and incredibly that was against Columbus so this game is truly on a knife’s edge.
New England’s away form: Played 17 – Won 6 – Drawn 2 – Lost 9
Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen are crucial for the Revs in midfield and both players netted in the 2-1 win against Columbus at the start of October.Embed from Getty Images
Both sides are so evenly matched on paper so this should be a thrilling tie over the two legs, and New England will want to find the net in Columbus on Saturday to take an away goal into the home tie.
The Crew have not beaten New England in the playoffs in five attempts so far and will need to change that to have any chance as they return to the post-season for the first time in three years.
New England were eliminated at this stage last year as they lost to eventual winners Sporting Kansas City but they have a great chance of success this time around, and with the second-leg at home, the pressure is on Columbus in this one.Embed from Getty Images
Key player: Federico Higuain – The Argentine forward scored in two of the three games against the Revs this season and is crucial to the Crew’s hopes.
Key stat: New England only kept one clean sheet away from home all season, while the Crew have won their last seven at home.
Columbus’ last five: W/L/W/W/W
New England’s last five: W/W/D/W/W
Prediction: Columbus Crew 2-2 New England Revolution