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Landlord v Tenant, Montreal Hope to Bounce Back in Florida

Nancy’s men hope to put recent punchless performances behind them..

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Montreal Impact
Bojan Krkic scores an early goal to put Montreal in front in the only previous meeting of the clubs (2020). Montreal won 2-1, their only victory using Red Bull Arena as a temporary home.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As a fixture there’s not much history between the sides, but if the thread in chapter two flows coherently no-one from Montreal will be complaining.

Using Red Bull Arena as a temporary base last season, their only ‘home’ win came against Inter-Miami in the the first-ever meeting of the clubs.

Maxi Urruti’s late winner separated the sides and Gonazalo Higuain added more Miami misfortune, seeing red at the game’s conclusion as the teams left the field.

Higuain managed only one goal in eight games last season, a tally he’s doubled in only four this, and will be looking to add to Montreal’s recent woes in which they’ve failed to pierce the net in their last five halves of football.

If that weren’t bad enough for Montreal, the celebrated Argentinian striker is now in tandem at Miami with elder brother, Federico, the silky smooth midfielder who plundered seven career goals against them when wearing Columbus yellow.

The older Higuain may be 36 now, but has shown enough this season to tempt new boss Phil Neville to include him in starting line-ups, rather than providing fresh impetus from the bench.

It’s not happened just yet but with injuries piling up; Nico Figal, Robbie Robinson (both hamstring) Kelvin Leerdam and Julian Carranza all either missing or doubtful, Wednesday night could be the night. French World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi played only 13 mins at the weekend, then headed directly to the hospital for tests, so his name might be added to the list of casualties.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Inter Miami CF
Federico Higuain (right), now strutting his stuff alongside younger brother Gonzalo at Inter-Miami, could be on for his first start of the season on Wednesday evening.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Former Celtic man Lewis Morgan is another the Montreal men will need to watch. The right-sided attacker has carried on from his MVP-level performances last season and scored the equalizer last weekend against Atlanta. It could be a busy shift for Mustafa Kizza and Kamal Miller, who’ll want to put an unhappy afternoon in Utah behind him.

Montreal will still be missing Mason Toye and Luis Binks, and while Rudy Camacho has deputized adequately for the Englishman so far this season, much debate surrounds the identity of Toye’s replacement. Does Wilfried Nancy go for the smaller but quicker, Hurtado, or the lanky Norwegian, Johnsen, who also had a moment to forget in Utah.

Perhaps it will be neither, if Lassi Lappalainen has played his way into the coach’s thoughts as he contemplates the starting line-up. The Finn could play in the Quioto role, with the Honduran moving more centrally.

Elsewhere Montreal will hope the weekend’s rest has aided the recovery of Zachary Brault-Guillard, but more tinkering may be needed to a midfield that hasn’t quite yet found the supply line to the front men with any great regularity.

It’s another tough one in a challenging week which culminates with a visit to Atlanta United where Montreal has never before returned with so much as a point.

Glitzy glamour club Inter-Miami, now with Phil Neville’s down-to-earth, Manchester northern-soul pragmatism added, will not be in any mood to extend a host’s hospitality beyond the opportunity to share the same pitch.

A club intent on big things and immediate success they won’t be offering any chink of light in Montreal’s direction once the whistle blows. It’s probably even more important they win this one, over their guests, the first of four meetings of the clubs in another unbalanced season schedule.

But Wilfried Nancy and his troupe must find a way, and they can. For Miami, who remain a new club, glamour still overshadows achievement, and perhaps Montreal’s task looks more daunting than it really is in the face of David Beckham’s pink-fuelled project.

Columbus Crew SC v CF Montreal
Rudy Camacho (left) has not often been convincing in Montreal, but has made a steady start to the 2021 season...
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Typically for another early-season MLS contest it’s a hard one to call. Neville has added defensive structure to Miami’s more flamboyant, unsuccessful style of 2020, even if Ryan Shawcross, his fellow, former Manchester United prodigy looked socially-distanced on Josef Martinez’s goal for Atlanta at the weekend.

What better incentive though for Montreal to go out and get one over on an illustrious host. The gelling process continues, but results must come too. A second successive defeat on Wednesday evening would render a fourth game without victory and threaten to derail a promising start to the campaign.

It would also not be an encouraging sequence heading to Mercedes Benz Stadium to face Atlanta on the weekend.

Projected Starting Line-ups -

IMCF - McCarthy - Ulloa, Shawcross, Gonzalez Pirez, Shea - Gregore, Matuidi - Morgan, Pizarro. Higuain F - Higuain G
Coach - Phil Neville

CFM - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Struna, Camacho, Miller, Kizza - Wanyama, Hamdy, Mihailovic - Quioto, Lappalainen
Coach - Wilfried Nancy

Match Officials -
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
Asst Refs: Nick Uranga, Brian Poeschel
4th Official: Marcos de Oliveira
VAR: David Gantar
Asst. VAR: Chantal Boudreau

The Ref - Guido Gonzalez Jnr is a relatively inexperienced MLS referee and has controlled Montreal games only twice previously, the 0-1 defeat at the hands of New England during last season’s MLS-is-Back tournament and the 2-2 ‘home’ draw with Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena.

How the Bookies see it....
The odds makers go hard on Inter-Miami on this one, listing the home side at a best-priced 4/6 (1.67), with Montreal an attractive 4/1 (5.00) shot. It’s 3/1 (4.00), the draw...

Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 29). Recorded Sunday evening, the TBIR team discusses the upcoming Inter-Miami v CFM clash (with special guest Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald), looks back on the 0-2 reverse against Vancouver Whitecaps... and features the CONCACAF Futsal Championship.

They talk the Montreal football issues of the week and cover all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine Social Media & CHOICES... Don’t miss it!

Every Week - The Ball Is Round... @TBIRMontreal - please follow us for regular, weekly CF Montreal, Canadian, MLS and international content in English!