Although the Montreal Impact have been training for about month already, it is hard to judge just how game ready they will be coming into Tuesday night's highly anticipated Quarter Final opening leg against Mexican side Pachuca.
Surely, Frank Klopas and the rest of the coaching staff have been working hard trying to get all the players as best prepared as possible and ironing out his ideal starting XI.
Pachuca is not having a great start to their season but as we saw with the Impact last year it is possible to have a bad year and still be successful in CCL action.
I believe that Klopas will have 3 main focuses heading into this game.
The first would be to try and keep a clean sheet. With the deciding game back on home turf, even if the Impact can't find an away goal, Klopas will feel like he has the team in the driver's seat. If Montreal can weather the storm early on, they will be in great shape.
It will be important for Donadel and Reo-Coker to disrupt the flow of their attack every chance they get. It will also be important for attacking players to make their runs and try to create offense when possible.
The second important aspect of the game will be for the entire club to be extremely disciplined. If there was one time I am glad the Swiss Volcano is no longer in charge it is now. When Jack McInerney was shown a red card during the team's pre-season match last week versus Cruz Azul, it surely opened some eyes as to what they can expect come Tuesday.
It is a challenge that they will have to overcome if the team wants to come away with any points and a full roster for the return leg. Players such as Hassoun Camara and Bakary Soumare will have to be on their best behavior, because it will not take much for the official go in his pocket or worse yet, to point to the spot. If things go wrong and the Impact concede, expect a ton of ankle grabbing, pleading and time wasting.
Lastly, as this is Champions League play, an away goal, if at all possible would be massive. Definitely the club will not throw caution to the wind to get it, but look to see them try to find one on set pieces or on the counter-attack. Despite the fact that the team has yet to play an official match, I firmly believe that this is a game that they can get points from.
There are so many new faces, it is hard to see the team come out with that same continuation of a funk that was seen last year. Not to take anything away from Pachuca, but I feel the elements of altitude and officiating will be the toughest tests the team will face in the opening game.
Although Pachuca is coming into this match on a mini 3-game winning streak, in 7 league matches so far, they have a goal differential of +1, and have yet to register a clean sheet. It will be up to Montreal to take advantage of their opportunities. They may not get a half dozen chances to score, but if they can capitalize on one, it may be all they need.
If I was coach this would be my starting XI:
Donny Toia, Laurent Ciman, Bakary Soumare, Hassoun Camara
Nigel Reo-Coker (captain), Marco Donadel
Justin Mapp, Dilly Duka, Ignacio Piatti