Preview: The 401 Derby returns to BMO Field for the first time in over a year

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Preview: The 401 Derby returns to BMO Field for the first time in over a year
© Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Following back to back defeats against Atlanta United and Inter Miami respectively, Toronto FC plays host to playoff-chasing CF Montreal in the first 401 Derby clash at BMO Field with fans in attendance since September 2019.

Javier Perez’s men will be looking to dent Montreal’s postseason push in what will be the final all Canadian MLS clash of the 2021 regular season.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm EST, with the game available to watch live on TSN.

Before losing 2-0 at home to Atlanta, Toronto FC had recorded 10 points from a possible 12 in their four previous games. Their win over the Chicago Fire was the first time in 2021 that TFC had won two on the bounce following the 3-2 victory over FC Cincinnati just a few days prior.

Now, the Reds are pointless and scoreless in their last two ahead of a massive encounter with a CF Montreal side who have genuine playoff ambitions this campaign.

Montreal has drawn their last two games, most recently coming from to secure a point against Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium. Since their win over Toronto back in August, Wilfried Nancy and co. have triumphed in just three of their last eight league matches.

With just four MLS games left to play for Saturday’s visitors, Montreal’s destiny is firmly in their own hands as they sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point clear of New York City FC in eighth and four behind the Philadelphia Union in third.

As for Toronto, who also has four matches remaining, the highest they could finish in the table is 11th, given that TFC tallies 12 points from 12 to end the season and both the Chicago Fire and Inter Miami suffer from a poor run of form in their last few fixtures.

While TFC’s playoffs hopes may have diminished, Michael Bradley and co. have their sights set on making Montreal’s postseason aspirations a little more difficult to achieve.

In terms of team news, Auro Jr. and Mark Delgado both return to the fold after serving their one match suspensions. Perez also confirmed that Chris Mavinga is back following a brief spell on the sidelines.

On the injury front, Yeferson Soteldo hobbled off with an apparent hamstring problem against Miami and will not be available on Saturday. Along with the Venezuelan, Ifunanyachi Achara and Omar Gonzalez have both been ruled out for the second consecutive game. Ayo Akinola, Ralph Priso and Tsubasa Endoh remain long-term absentees.

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty made his first MLS start for Toronto on Wednesday and was arguably the Reds’ best player on the pitch in Fort Lauderdale. It wouldn’t be surprising if the youngster is given another berth in the XI against Montreal after his bright performance in midweek.

The 17-year-old did in fact provide an assist off the bench in TFC’s MLS season opener against Montreal back in March, as Marshall-Rutty set up Richie Laryea’s consolation goal two minutes before the final whistle.

Saturday’s clash will be the 52nd meeting in all competitions between Toronto FC and CF Montreal. The Reds have the better winning recording with 25 victories from those 52 games, while Montreal has won this matchup 17 times, including the last two. The other nine matches between the two sides finished all square.

There is a possibility that the game on Saturday will be the last time Toronto meets Montreal until next year, but the two sides could face off one more time this year in the Canadian Championship final if they both dispatch their CPL opponents in their respective semi-final matches.

Jozy Altidore is the matchup’s top scoring player with 12 goals, with his last goal coming in TFC’s most recent victory over Montreal.

Toronto’s second all-time top scorer bagged an 89th minute winner at the Stade Saputo in September 2020 to seal a memorable 2-1 away win in a match that started the nine match unbeaten run that TFC went on between matchdays 11 and 19 of the 2020 MLS campaign.

The Reds have suffered two defeats to Montreal this season, losing 4-2 in March and 3-1 in August, but those results will need to be put behind Perez’s men as they look to treat the home fans in attendance to a victory over their arch rival for the first time in over two years.

Predicted Lineups:

Toronto FC: Bono; Auro, Mavinga, Lawrence, Laryea; Bradley, Delgado; Osorio, Pozuelo, Shaffelburg; Altidore

CF Montreal: Pantemis; Struna, Camacho, Miller; Choinière, Maciel, Piette, Bassong; Torres, Mihailovic; Miljevic

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