MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Final (2nd Leg): Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo

CenturyLink Field – Thursday, November 30 – 22:30 ET (03:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Seattle 3/4 – Draw 5/2 – Houston 7/2

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Preview

The Seattle Sounders welcome Houston Dynamo to CenturyLink Field on Thursday night for the second-leg of the 2017 Western Conference Final.

Many felt the Dynamo had nothing to lose heading into last week’s first-leg. But it seems whatever they did have to lose was lost on the night as the Sounders ran out 2-0 winners against a Houston side that had 10 men for more than an hour.

Jalil Anibaba’s 28th-minute red card left the Dynamo with a mountain to climb. Joe Willis may have saved the resulting penalty kick from Nicolas Lodeiro but they were already 1-0 down and that lead was doubled when Will Bruin fired in before halftime.

The Sounders had plenty more chances to put the game – and probably the tie – to bed but the Dynamo held on to somehow retain some form of optimistic hope ahead of Thursday’s second leg.

But make no mistake about it, Seattle have taken one giant stride into the MLS Cup Final. They have two crucial away goal and are well on track to have a chance at retaining their championship on December 9.

The Dynamo have to score at least two goals to have any chance at turning the tie around on Thursday night. But the Sounders have only conceded more than one goal at home on two occasions this season. And didn’t lose either of those games.

Seattle are unbeaten in 15 at home. They don’t need to attack Houston and should be able to wait for opportunities to attack on the counter. The odds of Houston advancing are slim but it should set up an exciting game as they have no choice but to go for it.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Team News

The Seattle Sounders won’t be able to call on the services of powerful defender Roman Torres. The Panamanian is suspended as a result of yellow card accumulation but will be back for the MLS Cup Final, should Seattle advance. Stefan Frei missed the first leg with a hamstring strain and could return here, although his status isn’t yet confirmed. Brad Evans and Jordan Morris are ruled out with ongoing injury problems. Osvaldo Alonso is listed as questionable but could be in line to return.

The Dynamo will be without Jalil Anibaba, following his red card in last week’s first leg. Alberth Elis is also suspended as a result of yellow card accumulation. Tyler Deric is suspended as a result of off-field conduct. George Malki, AJ DeLaGarza and Memo Rodriguez remain their only injury absentees.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Key Points

Seattle Sounders’ last five: W/W/D/W/W

Houston Dynamo’s last five: W/W/D/W/L

Key Stat: Fortress – Seattle Sounders have won their last four home games (including playoffs) by a combined score of 12-0. It’s been almost seven months since they lost at CenturyLink Field.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The veteran attacker scored twice in the Western Conference Semifinal win over Vancouver at home and will be looking to help the hosts through here. He is playing with extra hunger after missing last season’s run to the title and will be looking to exploit a Houston defence that will undoubtedly leave gaps as they chase a comeback.

Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo: Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo have to go for it. They have enough attacking options to hurt the Sounders backline, particularly given the absence of Roman Torres. But the problem is, the more they attack, the more open they will be to the Sounders’ ruthless attack. The likes of Lodeiro and Dempsey will be looking to be clinical and put the tie to bed. Expect both sides to score, but the Sounders are surely sailing through to the final.

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MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Columbus Crew

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinal (Second-Leg): New York City FC vs Columbus Crew

Yankee Stadium – Sunday, November 5 – 17:00 ET (22:00 GMT)

Match Odds: NYCFC 7/10 – Draw 3/1 – Columbus 16/5

New York City FC vs Columbus Crew: Preview

New York City FC need something special to get past Columbus Crew SC in Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinal second leg. The Crew lead 4-1 after a thrilling first-leg tie at MAPFRE stadium and have one foot in the Conference Final.

NYCFC are on the verge of exiting the playoffs at the same stage as last year, in similarly crushing circumstances. They went out 7-0 on aggregate to Toronto last season. They’ve now played three MLS Cup Playoff games and lost all of them convincingly.

Patrick Vieira’s men have injury worries, which aren’t helping. But the main problem appears to be that the club and the squad aren’t ready for the intensity that comes with playing in the playoffs.

The positive for New York City is that they created chances in the first leg and could have had a few more goals. A 3-0 win would see them advance but they are unlikely to keep the Crew out, so they’re going to need a whole host of goals to have a chance.

Columbus will still be riding high following that emotionally-charged win in the first-leg. They came into the playoffs as underdogs but have already eliminated Atlanta and are one game away from making the Conference Final.

Gregg Berhalter has his side playing with confidence and playing for the fans, given the uncertainty that surrounds the team’s future. They will look to soak up the inevitable pressure from NYCFC before hitting them on the break. Expect goals.

New York City FC vs Columbus Crew: Team News

Gregg Berhalter is without four players for the trip to Yankee Stadium. Alex Crognale, Gaston Sauro, Connor Maloney and Ben Swanson are all ruled out. But an unchanged lineup is likely to be named. Hector Jimenez, Artur and Josh Williams are all one booking away from suspension.

New York City FC remain without long-term absentees Miguel Camargo and Maxime Chanot. Alexander Callens is suspended and won’t feature.

New York City FC vs Columbus Crew: Key Points

New York City FC last five: W/D/L/D/L

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/D/W/W

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have lost their last six consecutive road games in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Key Player: David Villa – The NYCFC star got the potentially important away goal at MAPFRE Stadium. He has 23 goals in 32 total games this season and will be the man tasked with keeping NYCFC’s dreams alive.

New York City FC vs Columbus Crew: Prediction

New York City FC 3-2 Columbus Crew – NYCFC have yet to win a playoff game but doing so would give them something to build from. A big win could see them through against the odds, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll shut the Crew out. Columbus have goals in them and should manage to advance, although there should be drama on the way.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinal (2nd Leg): Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps

CenturyLink Field – Thursday, November 2 – 22:30 ET (02:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Seattle 8/15 – Draw 3/1 – Vancouver 9/2

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview

The Seattle Sounders meet Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps for the second leg of their Western Conference Semifinal on Thursday night. The first leg ended in a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw. That result does set up for what should be a thrilling night here though.

The scenarios are fairly simple. A Seattle win inside 90 minutes will send them into the Western Conference Final. Another scoreless draw would take the game to extra-time and maybe penalties. A score draw or Vancouver win would send them through.

Both sets of fans have reason for optimism. Both teams have the quality to win Thursday’s meeting. And their previous meetings this season suggest there is nothing to pick between the two.

Seattle are the slight favourites as they have home-field advantage. They won all three home postseason games on their way to their MLS Cup title last year and haven’t lost a home playoff game since 2013.

They will be going out to win. A Vancouver goal would pile the pressure on the hosts but they know they have enough to get past the Whitecaps, having beaten them 3-0 at CenturyLink Field just over a month ago.

It’s been almost five months since the Sounders lost a home game. They have won three on the spin in front of their own fans, scoring 10 and conceding none in that stretch. They need to keep that going if they are to advance.

The Whitecaps might arrive with a more cautious game plan. They will be looking to counter and steal an away goal early to put themselves in the driving seat.

They have done well at CenturyLink Field in recent seasons too, despite the hostility from the home support. The Whitecaps have won four of the last six MLS meetings between the two sides at the stadium. Although they have dropped the most recent two without scoring.

These two went 1-1-1 through their three regular season meetings in 2017. That was followed by a 0-0 draw in the first-leg of this semi. So expect this to be close, hard-fought but most of all, entertaining.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Team News

Clint Dempsey is available for the Sounders again as he returns from suspension. Osvaldo Alonso and Gustav Svensson could be in line to start, after both came off the bench in the first-leg draw at BC Place. However, Jordan Morris and Brad Evans are out. Victor Rodriguez is listed as ‘questionable’.

Vancouver have a couple of significant injury worries of their own. David Edgar and Matias Laba are ruled out with long-term injuries. While Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera might have to start on the bench as both are carrying knocks.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Key Points

Seattle Sounders’ last five: W/L/W/W/D

Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: L/D/L/W/D

Key Stat: The Vancouver Whitecaps have never won an away game in the MLS Cup Playoffs (0-2-1). Their only draw was a 0-0 tie at Portland in 2015.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey – He’s back from suspension and should be raring to go on such a huge night. This will be his 10th game against the Whitecaps but he only has one career goal against them. However, that did come in the 3-0 win in late September. If anyone is going to provide the difference, it’s likely to be Dempsey.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Prediction

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps – This one should be close but it’s hard to look past the Sounders. The Whitecaps have never won an away game in the playoffs, while the Sounders tend to produce their best in front of their home crowd. An early goal would open the tie right up but we see the hosts prevailing by the odd goal on the night.

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.

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.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Toronto FC

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal – Second Leg) – New York City FC vs. Toronto FC

Venue: Yankee Stadium – Sunday, November 6 – 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT) 

Match Odds: NYCFC 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Toronto 21/10

Match Preview

New York City FC welcome Toronto FC to Yankee Stadium on Sunday in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal with a place in the Eastern final up for grabs.

There is a huge amount of work for Patrick Vieira’s side to do if they are to progress here. They suffered a sucker-punch in the first leg, conceding twice in the last six minutes to lose the game 2-0.

New York City FC fans will be behind their team from the off, they will be expecting their star-players to step up and be counted for.

One thing NYCFC have in their favour is their home form. They have been scoring freely at Yankee Stadium, eight in their last two, and they’re unbeaten in eight, winning seven.

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As previously mentioned, Toronto FC have their two-goal advantage, which they wouldn’t have thought of having heading into the last ten minutes in the first leg last weekend.

Greg Vanney will be expecting his side to put on a professional display and not present NYCFC with easy chances.

While Toronto don’t want to be sitting back and playing a defensive game, they can expect NYCFC to come at them. They will get chances on the counter and with their strike-force it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them score.

If Toronto can keep things tight in the first half New York City will become even more desperate and mistakes will inevitably come, they have to be patient and make sure they get the job done.

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Team News

New York City FC to remain without both Connor Brandt and Shannon Gomez.

Toronto FC have a full fit squad ahead of the second leg.

Key Points

NYCFC’s last five: W/W/L/W/L

Toronto FC’s last five: L/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: New York City FC have scored at least two goals in nine of their last ten home games. They will need to repeat that feat without conceding to take the tie to extra time at the very least.

Key Player: Frank Lampard – Many will suggest the spotlight is on his teammate David Villa to perform, but Lampard has always been the man for the big occasion throughout his career, scoring vital goals. He will be a huge concern for Toronto who, like Lampard’s opponents throughout the last two decades, will struggle to pick him up when he is in the right place at the right time.

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Score Prediction

New York City FC 2-1 Toronto FC – Heartbreak for NYCFC who will fall at this stage. Whatever the outcome they have had a superb season and are making progress. Everything is in Toronto’s favour and they should surely be able to get the job finished off here.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs Montreal Impact

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal (Second-Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs Montreal Impact

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 5 – 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: NY Red Bulls 8/15 – Draw 3/1 – Montreal 9/2

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls welcome the Montreal Impact to Red Bull Arena for the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown on Sunday evening. The Impact lead 1-0 from last Sunday’s first leg but know they have a lot to do if they are to advance to the Conference Finals.

The pressure is on the Red Bulls here. They failed to score in an MLS game for the first time since July in last weekend’s defeat but know they have more than enough quality to win this game.

Jesse Marsch guided his side to the top of the Eastern Conference over the course of the regular season and they will expect to live up to their billing as top seed in the East with a victory here.

MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew - Red Bulls Celebrate

They have an incredibly strong home record but need to make sure they don’t chase the result too quickly here, as the Impact will set up to hit them on the counter in the hope of scoring some valuable away goals.

Montreal enter the game knowing they need to avoid defeat by more than one goal to stand a strong chance of advancing on Sunday night. A draw would be enough to see them through and so they may set up to defend deep and try and frustrate the Red Bulls here.

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They played well last Sunday and if they can repeat that performance here, they will have a Conference Final to prepare for.

The Red Bulls beat Montreal in both of their regular season clashes at Red Bull Arena this season and remarkably have still have never lost at home to the Impact in any competition (W7 D1).

Team News

The Red Bulls remain without Gideon Baah and Connor Lade for Sunday’s game but Jesse Marsch isn’t expected to make too many changes, if any, from last week’s first-leg loss. Gonzalo Veron is pushing for a start after coming off the bench last Sunday.

Montreal have two injuries of their own, with Andres Romero and Didier Drogba both sidelined. Drogba hasn’t played for a month but Matteo Mancosu has been deputising well, scoring the only goal last weekend following a brace against DC on the final day of the regular season. Mauro Biello isn’t expected to make any changes for the second leg.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/W/W/W/L

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

Key Stat: New York Red Bulls have not lost a home game in seven months. They are currently unbeaten in 17 home games in all competitions, and enter Sunday’s game off the back of four-straight victories at Red Bull Arena.

Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – The 2016 Golden Boot winner had scored in three consecutive games before last week’s 1-0 loss in the first leg. But he always tends to play better at home and has scored three in his last two at Red Bull Arena. The home side will look to BWP for inspiration in such a crucial fixture.

MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew - Bradley Wright-Phillips and Dax McCarty

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 3-1 Montreal Impact – Goals are expected in Sunday’s second-leg clash, but the pressure is on the hosts to deliver as the top seed in the East. The Red Bulls are a real force at home and should be able to win this match. The issue will be whether or not they can keep a clean-sheet, as any away goals scored by Montreal could be the deciding factor here. Ultimately, we expect the Red Bulls to advance in what should be an excellent game.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs DC United

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal Second Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs. DC United

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 8 – 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)

Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 4/9 – Draw 7/2 – DC United 6/1

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls welcome DC United to Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon for the second leg of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal.

The Red Bulls returned home from DC last weekend with an excellent 1-0 win that puts them firmly in the driving seat in this tie, knowing they’ve scored a crucial away goal.

Dax McCarty’s headed finish following Sacha Kljestan’s floated free-kick in the 72nd minute gave New York the advantage, and Jesse Marsch will be confident his side can see out the job on home soil.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Dax McCarty

The victory against DC was the perfect way for the Red Bulls to follow on from sealing the Supporters’ Shield title, showing they mean business and that they haven’t lost their focus – it also marked their third consecutive win.

DC United looked tired and slightly bereft of ideas as they struggled to break down a strong Red Bulls team – not even their usually reliable home form could help them salvage anything from the first leg.

Ben Olsen may be tempted to send his players out with orders to attack straight from the off in the hope of creating a realistic chance to progress, although that’s a tactic that could play into the hands of a New York side so dangerous on the counter-attack.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan Perry Kitchen

DC have lost seven of their last ten games, so it may pay for them to try and keep things tight and hope they can pinch a goal. It’s a tough task but if they have any aspirations of winning the MLS Cup, then now is the time to really stand up and be counted.

New York Red Bulls haven’t lost any of the four meetings with DC in 2015 (W3, D1) and the last time they lost at home to DC was in December 2012.

Team News

New York Red Bulls will be without regular centre-back, Damien Perrinelle, for the rest of the season after he suffered a knee injury in the first leg. Ronald Zubar will be expected to deputise in his absence. Defender Chris Duvall (leg) and striker Anatole Abang (hamstring) both remain out.

DC United have doubts over the fitness of midfielders Chris Pontius (hamstring) and Michael Farfan (undisclosed), as well as defender Sean Franklin (achilles). All three could miss this crucial second leg, while Chris Korb (knee), Davy Arnaud (concussion) and Jared Jeffrey (face) remain out.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/L/W/W/W

DC United’s last five: W/W/L/W/L

Key Stat: New York Red Bulls have scored at least one goal in each of their last 24 games.

Key Player: Mike Grella – He has perhaps been somewhat an unsung hero in 2015. With great performances from the likes of BWP, Lloyd Sam and Sacha Kljestan taking the limelight, it’s also worth noting how crucial Grella has been. He’s scored nine goals and made seven assists this season, making him a vital cog in the Red Bulls machine.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls Mike Grella

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 2-1 DC United – You can’t help feeling that New York Red Bulls have one foot in the conference final, although there is still hard work to be done. DC United certainly face an uphill struggle, but they will throw everything they have at this game as there’s nothing to lose. Ultimately though, the Red Bulls should see it through.

Sheffield United vs. Tottenham: League Cup Preview and Prediction

Competition: Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second-Leg

Venue: Bramall Lane – Wednesday, January 28 – 19:45 

Match odds: Sheffield United 7/2 – Draw 13/5 – Tottenham 17/20

Sheffield United host Spurs in the second-leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final tonight with a place in the final at Wembley up for grabs.

The tie is perfectly poised after Spurs earned a narrow 1-0 victory in the first-leg last week but the Blades know they need to attack a lot more than they did at White Hart Lane.

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Andros Townsend converted the winning penalty in the 74th minute after Jay McEveley was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball in the box, but Sheffield United defended well throughout and limited Spurs to just five shots on target.

Nigel Clough will have been pleased with what he saw but he knows his side must now attack Spurs if they are to reach Wembley for the second year in succession after facing Hull City in the FA Cup semi-final last term.

Sheffield United home record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 9 – Drawn 4 – Lost 3

That will suit Spurs as they will look to counter-attack at every opportunity and Mauricio Pochettino’s side always look most dangerous when they can hit teams on the break.

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Tottenham were knocked out of the FA Cup by Leicester on Saturday as they conceded two late goals against the Foxes, and so the League Cup has become even more important as the club look to win their first trophy in seven years.

Tottenham’s away record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 7 – Drawn 4 – Lost 4

Sheffield United earned an FA Cup replay with Preston North End after drawing 1-1 on Saturday but the home fans will hope to see off the challenge of Premier League opposition once again, and will take confidence from their 1-0 win against Southampton in the fifth round of the competition.

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This will be the the fourth meeting between the two sides in the League Cup and Spurs have won all three of the previous encounters, including last week’s 1-0 victory.

The game will be Tottenham’s first away from home in the League Cup this season. Their last loss away from home in the competition came against Norwich in October 2012.

Sheffield United’s last five in all competitions: W/W/L/L/D

Tottenham’s last five in all competitions: L/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Spurs have not won at Bramall Lane in their past five attempts, spanning 25 years. Their last win at Sheffield United came in the League Cup in 1990.

Key Player: Jamal Campbell-Ryce – The 31-year-old winger has scored four goals in his last five and was the Blades’ main threat last week. He will give Spurs left-back Ben Davies plenty to think about.

Sheffield United vs Tottenham Prediction: Sheffield United 1–1 Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs to advance to the final on aggregate but they will find it tricky at Bramall Lane.

Chelsea vs Liverpool: League Cup Semi-Final Preview and Prediction

Competition: Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second-Leg

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Odds: Chelsea 8/13 – Draw 16/5 – Liverpool 9/2

Chelsea and Liverpool will lock horns once again as they meet for the second-leg of their League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge with a place in the final at Wembley at stake.

The first-leg ended all square at Anfield after Eden Hazard put the Blues 1-0 up from the penalty spot before Raheem Sterling scored a deserved equaliser for Liverpool, who will be kicking themselves that they didn’t get more out of the game after having 19 shots to Chelsea’s two.

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The Reds dominated large periods but Chelsea held firm and will fancy themselves to get over the line on home soil and combining that fact with their away goal, it makes them the slight favourites. But after the events of the weekend just gone, it shows that anything can happen – especially in a cup tie.

Chelsea’s home record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 14 – Drawn 1 – Lost 1

Liverpool haven’t lost since December 14 when they suffered a 3-0 league defeat against Manchester United, and since then they have gone on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

By Chelsea’s standards, the last month will be considered as an average and inconsistent return having won just three of their last seven in all competitions, drawing two and losing two, most notably a 4-2 defeat at home to League One Bradford in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday – their first home loss of the season.

Liverpool’s away record in all competitions: Played 16 – Won 8 – Drawn 1 – Lost 7

Jose Mourinho’s sides aren’t used to conceding too many goals in a game, so the 5-3 defeat at Tottenham, and the Bradford game, will almost certainly be in the back of their minds, so despite being at home, we could see a very similar game to the first-leg as Chelsea will look to keep it tight.

These two side have previously met six times in this competition, with Liverpool coming out on top three times to Chelsea’s two, with last week’s first-leg the first League Cup tie that has ended level between them.

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Liverpool triumphed 2-0 the last time these two met at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup, which came back in November 2011, so they will be hoping that history can repeat itself on Tuesday night.

Chelsea’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/D/L

Liverpool’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/D/D

Key Stat: Liverpool are without a win in their last six games against Chelsea.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The young Englishman is Liverpool’s top goalscorer in the League Cup and his attacking flair causes concerns for any defence.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool – Chelsea to edge it and seal their place in the final.