Competition: CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Final First-Leg
Venue: Olympic Stadium – Wednesday, March 18 – 20:00 ET (00:00 GMT)
Match Odds: Montreal 5/4 – Draw 11/5 – Alajuelense 23/10
Montreal Impact host Alajuelense in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night in what is a huge game for both clubs as around 40,000 fans are expected to be at the Olympic Stadium.
The Impact made history in the last round by becoming the first-ever Canadian club to beat Mexican opposition over two-legs in the competition as they advanced past Pachuca on the away goals rule to book their place in the last four.
They are the only remaining MLS side left in the competition after Wednesday’s opponents, Alajuelense defeated DC United 6-4 on aggregate in the last round.
The Costa Rican side were the lowest-seeded side left in the tournament heading into the knockout stages but stunned top-seeded DC 5-2 in the first-leg at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto.
DC United did win the return leg 2-1 but that wasn’t enough to progress and Montreal now face the task of progressing against one of Costa Rica’s most successful clubs.
This will be the first time Alajuelense have ever visited Montreal and it should be an intriguing game. Montreal sat deep and hit Pachuca on the counter-attack to great effect last time out but their upcoming opponents don’t play with as high a line and so the same approach may not work out so well.Embed from Getty Images
Hosting the first-leg makes this a big challenge for the Impact as they know they have to go out and try to win the game as the return trip to Costa Rica will not be easy.
Montreal Impact opened up the 2015 MLS season with defeat at DC United 10 days ago but had a bye week this weekend and have had a long time to prepare for the game.
Alajuelense are 13 games into their domestic campaign but currently sit fourth, having not won a league game in six.
Montreal Impact will be without four men for the game on Wednesday night as wingers Justin Mapp (elbow) and Andres Romero (thigh) will both miss out, while defender Adrian Lopez (knee) and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (shoulder) are also out injured. Dominic Oduro will be hoping to start in place of Mapp on the right wing.Embed from Getty Images
Alajuelense goalkeepers Patrick Pemberton and Kevin Ruiz will both miss the game. Pemberton is suspended along with winger Kevin Sancho, who will also miss the game. Midfielder Luis Miguel Valle could return from injury but is unlikely to feature.
Montreal Impact’s last five in all competitions: W/W/D/D/L
Alajuelense’s last five in all competitions: W/L/D/D/D
Key Stat: Alajuelense have not won away from home in the CONCACAF Champions League this season. Domestically, they are without an away win in five.
Key Player: Ignacio Piatti – Montreal’s only Designated Player needs to step up and make the difference in this one. He will look to create opportunities wherever possible and could be the man to win this.
Montreal Impact 2-1 Alajuelense – The Impact will go out to win this game and they should succeed in doing so against an Alajuelense side that is looking out of form. The home crowd will need to play a part in cheering their team across the line but expect the Costa Rican side to grab an away goal in what should be an entertaining game.