MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
Venue: BMO Field – Friday, March 31 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST) 
Match Odds: Toronto 4/5 – Draw 5/2 – SKC 16/5

Match Preview

Toronto welcome Sporting Kansas City to BMO Field on Friday night in what will be their first home game of the season. It’s the second season in a row the TFC faithful have had to wait for their home campaign to get underway, so there will certainly be a buzz around the place.

Greg Vanney’s side have started the 2017 regular season in impressive form considering all their games have been away and they remain unbeaten.

Toronto come into this one having won 2-0 at Vancouver. Their hard work was rewarded late on as they scored twice in the space of four minutes, something their opponents are going to have to be aware of this season as they showed great desire to push on for a win when many would have settled for a draw on the road.

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Sporting Kansas City have the exact same form as Toronto coming into this game, drawing twice and winning once. They sit 5th in the Western Conference.

Despite not losing so far this season there are concerns around SKC’s offence, as they have scored just twice in three games. They are going to have to show great defensive resilience if that is to be a feature of their style of play throughout the campaign.

Peter Vermes will be feeling confident of facing Toronto as SKC have had a great run of form against the Eastern Conference side over the last four years. They’re unbeaten in seven games and have won six, all in Major League Soccer. However, previous form against Toronto will not guarantee they will come away with points

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Team News

Toronto are hopeful that talisman Sebastian Giovinco will be ready to take part in this one following his injury lay off. Ashtone Morgan remains out. Both Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are returning from international duty, the duo may feel a little less fresh than the rest of the squad having played as recently as Tuesday for USMNT.

Sporting Kansas City are expecting Diego Rubio to remain out, while Saad Abdul-Salaam, Cameron Iwasa and Erik Palmer-Brown are all questionable. There are concerns over Benny Feilhaber, who is reported to be carrying a leg injury, he would be a huge miss for SKC.

Key Points

Toronto’s form: D/D/W

Sporting Kansas City’s form: D/D/W

Key Stat: Sporting Kansas City have not lost to Toronto in their last seven games, winning six.

Key Player: Justin Morrow – Morrow has been impressive so far this season. He has been an integral part of a Toronto defence that has conceded just two goals in three games and is capable of popping up with an important goal, as he’s already shown early on this term.

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Score Prediction

Toronto FC 1-1 Sporting Kansas City – The points look set to be shared here. Both sides have looked incredibly tight defensively and will not look to leave themselves open at the back. SKC would take a point away from home but know they are facing up to a Toronto side who will be going all out to give their fans something to cheer about in their home opener. We see this ending in a draw with Sporting Kansas City set to continue their unbeaten run.

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Three reasons why Tottenham can win the Premier League under Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur are on track for their best domestic finish in the Premier League era. They have played some scintillating football, attacking with flare and defending with power. So why can they win the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino? Lewis Addley explores…

The race to win the Premier League title is more intense with each passing week. There are ten points separating top spot and sixth place. Tottenham Hotspur are sitting in second place, seven points behind leaders Chelsea. Pochettino has shown exactly why Spurs deserve to be regarded as capable of winning the league and his continual improvement of the side since taking over points to glory in the future.

While we aren’t suggesting Spurs are going to win the title this season, albeit possible with plenty of games to play, Pochettino has them on the right track to provide the ultimate domestic silverware. Tottenham have lost just two games in the league this season, the joint lowest, while there is a bit of work to be done to turn draws into wins, Pochettino has his side close to where they need to be.

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So what are three key reasons why Pochettino’s Spurs can win the Premier League?

Respect – The players have shown they respect and trust their manager.

The unity of the Spurs squad is apparent for all to see, there doesn’t appear to be an ego in any player to suggest they’re more important than the team. In the wake of the appeal of moving to China, key figures in the Spurs camp have openly said there is no interest for them. Pochettino questioned players’ willingness to move, while talisman Harry Kane believes his teammates are not interested in big money moves, only achieving success at White Hart Lane.

Contracts – Spurs are tying down their players, not selling them.

The importance of not being seen as a ‘stepping-stone’ undoubtedly helps to keep players long-term. Spurs have given out bumper new contracts to their key players and are continuing to negotiate to get those remaining new deals. Rather than attracting world-class signings who see joining Spurs as a way to advertise themselves in the Premier League, they are able to sign players who want to make it to the highest level at the club.

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Tactics – Pochettino seems to have his tactics spot on.

From front to back the current Tottenham side is incredibly strong and they all appear to understand their role and what’s expected of them. This is an incredibly important feature to create a successful side. Failing to get tactics and player roles right leads to underperforming stars and a team lacking unity, something that can arguably be seen at Manchester City during their transitional period. Pochettino has built a team on the foundations of strength in every position. This makes them a powerful outfit and their run of results is proof continual progression.

Spurs are clearly a club on the rise. Their new stadium is well underway and it is an exciting time to be a part of the club for all involved. So long as they continue to improve, their chance of winning the title will increase. While it is difficult to predict whether they will win the title in the current campaign, given the performance levels of the teams around them, Pochettino has to get his players hungry for success. If Spurs can lift a trophy this season it will give the squad the taste of silverware and it could be the start of golden patch.

Do you think Tottenham can win the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Bournemouth vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Bournemouth vs. Liverpool

Venue: Vitality Stadium – Sunday, December 4 – 13:30 GMT (08:30 ET)

Match Odds: Bournemouth 16/5 – Draw 29/10 – Liverpool 3/4

Match Preview

Bournemouth welcome Liverpool to the Vitality Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a game that has the makings of one-way traffic.

Eddie Howe’s side are in a respectable 12th position, they’ve picked up 15 points already this season but have struggled over the last five games.

Bournemouth come into this one having played another title contender last weekend. Their 3-1 loss against Arsenal had plenty of talking points and the result may have been very different on another day.

The Cherries need to get back to picking up points on a regular basis. They’ve only taken four points from the last 15 on offer to them and despite being six places above the relegation zone, the gap is just four points.

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Liverpool have been on a superb run of form of late. They trail top spot by just one point and will be hoping results go in their favour this weekend so they can force their way into first place.

Jurgen Klopp has a selection headache ahead of this tie. His squad has been hit by an injury crisis, but he is not phased, and believes in any players he is selecting.

Liverpool come into this tie having progressed to the semifinal of the League Cup with their midweek win over Leeds.

The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 league games and have picked up 13 points from the last 15 on offer. This is a winnable game for Liverpool, but they will be worked hard by an energetic Bournemouth side.

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Team News

Howe is expecting to be without Lewis Cook and Andrew Surman, while both Artur Boruc and Charlie Daniels are doubts for the visit of Liverpool.

Klopp’s side has been hit with an unenviable injury list. Philippe Coutinho, Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge are all out, while Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip are all doubts.

Key Points

Bournemouth’s last five: D/L/L/W/L

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Liverpool have scored at least two goals in eight of their last ten Premier League games.

Key Player: James Milner – Liverpool will be looking for Milner to bring a calming presence to the side as they head into the Christmas period with a squad riddled with injuries. The Englishman has plenty of experience and he will be a key figure once again this weekend.

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Score Prediction

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – Bournemouth to become the latest victim of an impressive display from Klopp’s Liverpool. If history is anything to go by Bournemouth will struggle here, they have lost their last five games against Liverpool in all competitions.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Saturday, December 3 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester City 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Chelsea 12/5

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime in a mouthwatering fixture in the race for the Premier League title.

Pep Guardiola’s side trail league leaders Chelsea by just one point ahead of this tie and just three points separate the top four. This is a crunch game for City, who need to make sure they win and put an end to Chelsea’s winning run.

City come into the game having come from behind to beat Burnley in a scrappy game that showed their resilience to win, something they’ll need to show once again here.

While many are saying it is too early for results to impact the race for the title, a loss for City here could be disastrous for the squad mentally. Guardiola has experience coaching against Chelsea and will know his side are up against a team that never know when they’re beat.

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Chelsea are the inform team in the Premier League. They have won seven in row, conceding just once and scoring 19.

Antonio Conte is pleased with his side, especially the spirit they showed to come from behind to beat Spurs last weekend. Many have questioned whether or not going behind would upset the balance for Chelsea in their unbeaten run, but they proved they are capable of turning a game in their favour.

Chelsea have struggled at the Etihad, they have won just once in their last eight visits in all competitions and, like practically every Premier League club, have constantly been on the receiving end of a Sergio Aguero masterclass.

This a game Chelsea have to avoid defeat in. It will put them in a really good position for their upcoming December fixtures, while no league game is easy, they have some favourable games over the Christmas period and could capitalise on that to give themselves some cushioning at the top.

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Team News

Vincent Kompany remains out for Manchester City, while there are concerns about Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling, who are both doubts.

Chelsea are expected to remain unchanged for the eighth game in a row. John Terry will be out, while Kurt Zouma and Marco van Ginkel are not yet ready to be considered for selection. Diego Costa is one yellow card away from a one-game ban, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he picks that up here given the intensity of this tie.

Key Points

Manchester City’s form: D/W/D/W/W

Chelsea’s form: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Chelsea have conceded just once in their seven-game winning streak.

Key Player: Thibaut Courtois – This is easily the biggest challenge of the season for the Chelsea backline. They have been performing very well but face a completely different opponent with the way City will press them on the ball. Courtois will have to be at his best to ensure his side can come away with a win.

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Score Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea – Manchester City are going to give Chelsea a different style of game that no other side has done this season. Their pressing and ball retention will make this a difficult afternoon for Conte’s men. Historically, it is not a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and Aguero & co will make it another to forget for The Blues.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final – Second Leg) Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact 

Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, November 30 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Toronto FC 8/15 – Draw 3/1 – Montreal Impact 9/2

Match Preview

Toronto and Montreal Impact are set for a thrilling encounter on Wednesday night, with a place in the MLS Cup Final up for grabs as they lock horns in the Eastern Conference Championship second leg.

The winner of Tuesday’s game will face Seattle in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, where a first-time winner is guaranteed. If Toronto advance, they will host the final, but Seattle will play hosts if the Impact progress. 

Toronto come into the second leg 3-2 down after a nightmare hour to forget in the game in Montreal. The tie looked like it could have been out of their reach but Greg Vanney’s side showed why you cannot write them off as they scored twice in the last half hour to set up this incredible return clash.

Given the fightback from Toronto they now look favourites to advance, but there is still plenty of work to do here against a Montreal side who will be kicking themselves for letting such a vital lead go in front of their own fans.

Toronto have been impressive at BMO Field in 2016. They have won their last three home games but worryingly they did lose to Montreal the last time they welcomed them here. Nothing other than a victory will see Toronto advance to their first MLS Cup Final.

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Montreal Impact will be itching to ensure they do not miss out on the final now. They have improved year-on-year and reaching their first MLS Cup Final would be another part of their history that will never be forgotten.

Mauro Biello needs to make sure his side are calm from the get-go here. They still have that one-goal lead, so they need to play their normal game and shape up defensively against a strong Toronto attack.

There will be added emotion for the Impact squad as this could be the last time Didier Drogba plays, and while there have been some ups and downs in his short spell at the club, he will be missed. The Ivorian will want to sign off at the club in style, like he has done throughout his career, so losing this will not be an option for him and the rest of the squad.

Montreal’s task is far from simple and they know they cannot afford to allow Toronto time on the ball, so high-press is an option. Breaking up play and countering will make Impact dangerous and difficult to deal with. They will be out to grab a couple of away goals, as Toronto did at the Olympic Stadium last weekend.

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Team News

Vanney has a completely fit squad for this tie. He will be expecting maximum effort from his starting XI to ensure they make it through and pull off an impressive comeback.

Andres Romero remains Montreal’s only injury concern. Biello will be unlikely to unsettled the balance of his squad too much going into this one, but there may well be some defensive changes in an attempt to tighten up that backline.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

Montreal Impact’s last five: L/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Form – Toronto have won their last three home matches.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The stage is set for Giovinco to show his class once again. If he is presented with even a sniff at goal he is likely to find the back of the net. Toronto need him now more than ever if they’re to make the final.

Photo: Toronto FC

Photo: Toronto FC

Score Prediction

Toronto FC 2-0 Montreal Impact – Toronto to make the most of their firepower and pick apart the Montreal defence on home soil. It will be a sour end to the season for Montreal if they are to exit the playoffs here considering the commanding position they were in and it will be some turnaround if Toronto can pull it off.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Burnley vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Burnley  vs. Manchester City

Venue: Turf Moor – Saturday, November 26 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Burnley 17/2 – Draw 17/4 – Manchester City 30/100

Match Preview

Burnley welcome Manchester City to Turf Moor on Saturday lunchtime in a game that looks set to be far from straightforward for either side.

Sean Dyche will be disappointed with the manor they lost their last game. The 4-0 drubbing away at West Brom wasn’t a reflection on how they have performed since their return to the Premier League. It is a result they need to quickly get over and bounce back from to avoid it being the start of a dull run of form.

Other than that result, The Clarets have been in solid form of late, picking up seven points from 15 in their last five games. This is going to be a real test of their resolve, but we have already seen how frustrating Burnley can be to play against this season.

Burnley have reason to believe they can pick up a favourable result against City, given a number of their impressive home results this season. The main thing for them in this game is to avoid being caught out early on, otherwise they could be in for a long afternoon.

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Manchester City come into this game having won 2-1 in a cagey affair away at Palace. The return of Yaya Toure was welcomed as he netted both goals, which would have sent out a message of warning to the rest of the league, no club needs telling how dangerous the Ivorian powerhouse is.

Pep Guardiola will be pleased with the power his City side have been playing with and knows it’s only a matter of time before everything clicks into place. They’re creating well but just need to be more clinical in the final third.

City have to win this game, there are significant fixtures in the race for the title this weekend and they cannot afford to be off the pace at the start of December.

Guardiola’s side have been travelling well. They’ve won their last five away games in the Premier League and will expect to make it six on the bounce here. Worryingly for City they are leaking goals at the back, which will give Burnley hope heading into this one, but a win looks likely for The Citizens even if it is a tight affair.

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Team News

Burnley have no injury concerns heading into this game. The decision Dyche has to make is how to set up to prevent being picked apart by City. He will more than likely pack out the midfield and aim for Burnley to break the game up.

Manchester City are set to be without captain Vincent Kompany as he has picked up another injury, which begs the question, will he get any luck and a run in the side? Fabian Delph is City’s only other injury concern. Guardiola will be expecting an intensive performance from his players, they’ll be looking to starve Burnley of the ball and will need their midfield to be energetic in order to do so.

Key Points

Burnley’s last five: L/W/D/W/L

Manchester City’s last five: D/D/W/D/W

Key Stat: One for the road – Manchester City have won their last five Premier League away games.

Key Player: Tom Heaton – The Burnley ‘keeper has already thwarted one Manchester club this season with an astonishing performance, he will need to be at his best once again if his side are to take a positive result here. Expect him to be busy.

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Score Prediction

Burnley 1-3 Manchester City – Burnley to fall short in a game they can be forgiven for doing so. Manchester City have so much firepower in their squad that a win looks the most likely outcome. Guardiola will be disappointed if his side are to concede once again, but the three points will be the most important thing for him and his squad.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final – First Leg) Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC

Venue: Olympic Stadium – Tuesday, November 22nd – 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Montreal Impact 11/8 – Draw 9/4 – Toronto FC 15/8

Match Preview

Montreal Impact welcome Toronto FC to Olympic Stadium on Tuesday evening in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final, with a Canadian side guaranteed to make the MLS Cup Final for the first time ever.

This is a huge game for both of these rivals. Montreal have to make the most of home advantage and ensure they go into the second leg in a strong position, which will be easier said than done.

The Impact overcame the Red Bulls 3-1 on aggregate in the Conference Semifinal, a result that will have filled Mauro Biello’s squad with confidence.

This is the first time Montreal have reached the Eastern Conference Championship game so there is the added incentive to make even more history and reach the MLS Cup Final now.

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Toronto FC are also creating history. Before this year they had never won a playoff game. Greg Vanney’s side advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship they after completely destroyed NYCFC 7-0 on aggregate, a result that will never be forgotten.

While the squad will still be flying high off the back of that result, their attention must turn to making sure they go into the second leg after a positive performance away at Montreal on Tuesday.

Toronto fans will be praying their side avenges their elimination from the 2015 playoffs last season by Montreal and they are favourites to advance over the two legs.

If recent history is anything to go by for Toronto they stand a good chance of a favourable result here, as they are unbeaten in their last three visits to Stade Saputo in all competitions, drawing twice and winning one.

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Team News

Andres Romero remains out for Montreal Impact, while both Didier Drogba and Matteo Mancosu are both doubts to start. Drogba, though, is back in the picture after a month out.

Vanney has the pleasure of picking his side from a near fully fit squad as Steven Beitashour is his only injury concern ahead of the first leg.

Key Points

Montreal Impact’s form: D/L/W/W/W

Toronto FC’s form: D/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Toronto FC have scored at least two goals in their last five MLS away games.

Key Player: Ignacio Piatti – The Montreal playmaker will be expected to provide and help his side take a lead into the second leg. This is going to be an extremely tough tie to win over both legs for Montreal, so they have to be in a strong position come the end of the first 90 minutes and Piatti will look to provide some magic once again.

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Score Prediction

Montreal Impact 1-1 Toronto FC – This is going to be a tight affair, neither side is going to want to give the other an advantage heading into the second leg, but a draw is a more favourable result for Toronto than Montreal, who will be desperate to win this one.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Middlesbrough vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Chelsea vs. Everton

Venue: Riverside Stadium – Sunday, November 20 – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Middlesbrough 5/1 – Draw 29/10 – Chelsea 4/7 

Match Preview

Middlesbrough welcome Chelsea to the Riverside Stadium on Sunday afternoon in what has the makings of a game that could throw up a surprise result.

Before the international break, Boro had been enjoying a solid run of form, picking up six points from five games, including impressive draws against Arsenal and City.

Aitor Karanka knows his side have the capability of upsetting anyone this season. Middlesbrough are sitting 15th in the Premier League and are giving a good account of themselves on their return to the top flight.

Worryingly for Boro, they have not managed a positive result against Chelsea in their last six attempts, losing all of those games, what a time this would be to bring that run to an end.

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Chelsea were flying as they headed into the international break. Antonio Conte has seen his side win every league game (5) since switching to 3-4-3. Their 5-0 demolition of Everton last time out sent out a message to the rest of the title chasing sides.

The Blues haven’t conceded in those fives games and are now sitting second in the league. They will be seeing this as an opportunity to make it six wins in a row.

If history is anything to go by, this should be a routine win for Chelsea, not only have they won their last six in a row against Middlesbrough, they have also kept a clean sheet in all of those games.

The Chelsea squad has been hit by a few injuries in the last few weeks, which only heightens the importance of depth, something they have in abundance.

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Team News

Middlesbrough could be without three for the visit of Chelsea as James Husband, George Friend and Daniel Ayala are all doubts.

Chelsea’s main concern will be over the fitness of their two most important players this season, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, who both returned from the international carrying knocks. Conte will still be expecting to be without Kurt Zouma, Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Key Points

Middlesbrough’s last five: D/L/D/W/D

Chelsea’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Chelsea have won their last six games against Middlesbrough in all competitions.

Key Player: Pedro – The Chelsea winger has been completely revitalised under Conte. He is playing with the confidence that resulted in his move to the West Londoners. Pedro’s energy and ability to provide both goals and assists has caused trouble for opposition defenders this season and he will be looking to play a key role this weekend.

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Score Prediction

Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea – Boro to come unstuck against a Chelsea side who are expected to take all three points here. The Blues have shown a real togetherness under Conte and are relishing playing in the 3-4-3. Middlesbrough will be able to cause Chelsea problems, but given their defensive strength and energy in the side, they’d be forgiven for falling short here.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United

Competition: Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United

Venue: White Hart Lane – Saturday, Novemeber 19 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Tottenham 8/15 – Draw 16/5 – West Ham 5/1

Match Preview

Tottenham welcome West Ham to White Hart Lane on Saturday evening as the Premier League returns following the international break.

Spurs remain the only side unbeaten in the Premier League this season, but the North London club are trailing top spot by five points and are currently 5th.

There is plenty of room for improvement for Tottenham despite their strong start to the season. Mauricio Pochettino, his players and the fans will be expecting more.

Tottenham come into this one having drawn their last four games on the bounce. While remaining unbeaten is a real positive, Spurs could easily be top of the league if they could find the back of the net on a more regular basis.

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West Ham United’s form has picked up and they look to be getting their season back on track after an unfavourable start.

The Hammers had won just one of their opening six games but have since picked up eight points in their last five games.

Slaven Bilic will have his sights set on pushing his side up the table and into the top ten. West Ham are currently 17th, but there are just eight points separating the relegation zone and European places in what looks set to be the tighest Premier League season ever.

West Ham are going to have to pick up their away form. They have won just once on the road this season, losing the other four. This is the first game of an incredibly tough four games against title contendors for Bilic’s side and they cannot afford to lose all of those fixtures. A positive result here is a must.

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Team News

Tottenham could be without as many as five for the visit of West Ham, as Ben Davies, Erik Lamela, Marcus Edwards and Toby Alderweireld are all expected to be out, while Dele Alli is a doubt. Moussa Sissoko returns following his suspension.

West Ham are expecting to be without eight players as their injury woes continue. Arthur Masuaku, Gokhan Tore, Sam Byram, Andy Carroll and Winston Reid are out, while James Collins, Diafra Sakho and Reece Oxford are all doubts. Mark Noble is suspended.

Key Points

Tottenham Hotspur’s last five: W/D/D/D/D

West Ham United’s last five: D/W/W/L/D

Key Stat: Stalemate – Tottenham have drawn their last four Premier League games.

Key Player: Hugo Lloris – It might not seem the case considering they’re unbeaten, but there is a lot of pressure on the Spurs ‘keeper. He is unquestionably the reason that not one of their four consecutive draws have been a loss. Lloris will have to continue to perform at the highest level while Tottenham are not scoring enough goals to win games.

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Score Prediction

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Ham United – Tottenham to put an end to their run of consecutive draws and continue to challenge in the title race. West Ham’s away form has been tough to take for their fans and it won’t get any easier this weekend.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Colorado Rapids vs LA Galaxy

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Western Conference Semifinal – Second Leg) – Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy

Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Sunday, November 6 – 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Colorado 1/1 – Draw 11/5 – LA Galaxy 11/4 

Match Preview

A place in the Western Conference Final is up for grabs on Sunday as Colorado Rapids welcome LA Galaxy to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the biggest game of the 2016 MLS campaign for these sides.

Colorado have work to do, they fell to a 1-0 defeat in the first leg last weekend. They are still more than in the game and know they are capable of progressing.

The Rapids now haven’t beaten Galaxy in their last three attempts, but the last meeting here ended with a Colorado win.

Pablo Mastroeni’s side are under a huge amount of pressure to perform, they just need to keep a calm mentality and start well. If they can get an early goal, or most importantly, the first goal in the game, the momentum will swing their way.

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LA Galaxy’s fate is in their own hands, avoid defeat and they’ve reached the Western Conference final, yet this game will be anything but straightforward.

Bruce Arena will be fully aware his side are going to be under pressure from the moment they step out to warm up. The Colorado fans are going to do everything possible to make this an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Giovani dos Santos’ strike was enough to give Galaxy a lead into the second leg, but it is a slender one, he, like many of LA’s star-players are going to have to dig deep and show what they’re made of.

Galaxy have plenty of players with big-game experience they will be relying on here. The LA defence are going to expect to face more than one shot on their goal as they did in the first leg, so it is important they’re switched on from the get-go.

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Team News

Colorado Rapids are expecting to be without Dillon Serna and Marlon Hairston for the second leg. Mastroeni’s starting XI are going to have to give everything from the off to ensure they give Galaxy their hardest game of the season.

LA Galaxy will be without Gyasi Zardes, while Steven Gerrard remains a doubt as continues to struggle with a hamstring injury.

Key Points

Colorado Rapids’ last five: W/W/L/D/L

LA Galaxy’s last five: L/W/D/W/W

Key Stat: Fortress – Colorado are unbeaten in their last 17 games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They need to make their home advantage count if they’re going to progress.

Key Player: Brian Rowe – The Galaxy ‘keeper is going to need to be at his best. Colorado are going to throw everything at him in this tie, he will be relied on as the last line of defence. Rowe will be looking to slow the game down all the while the result is in Galaxy’s favour, that will break up the flow of the tie and frustrate the Rapids.

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Score Prediction

Colorado Rapids 1-1 LA Galaxy – Colorado to fall short in the semis. This has the makings of a cagey game with little to split the sides, much like the first leg. Galaxy will be looking to finish the job off, but know they could well regret not bringing a bigger advantage into the second leg if they’re not careful.