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Massive Predictions: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC

It might be our toughest game yet to predict, but we’re going to try.

While Columbus Crew SC fans got a little taste of soccer on Wednesday in the Black & Gold’s 4-0 win in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Saturday marks the end of a two and a half week break from Major League Soccer play.

For the third and final time in 2016, Columbus will take on the Montreal Impact at MAPFRE Stadium. Crew SC will also be looking for the team’s first win over the Impact this year after losing the first meeting in Montreal and conceding a three-goal second-half lead that resulted in a draw at home.

The Impact are currently tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points, while the Black & Gold sit five points and six spots back on the Canadians.

We know playmaker Federico Higuain, center back Gaston Sauro, and midfielder Ben Swanson — who made his professional debut in Columbus’ last match — are all out of this contest. On top of that, forwards Conor Casey and Ola Kamara are both questionable, as well as midfielders Mohammed Saeid and Cedrick Mabwati, and defender Tyson Wahl.

Montreal has players missing as well. Creative midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who drives the bus for the Impact, is out as are midfielders Marco Donadel and Calum Mallace and defender Victor Cabrera. Central defender Laurent Ciman will also miss this contest as he is with his national side.

With makeshift lineups on both sides, it’s hard to predict how this contest will play out, but they don’t call us experts for nothing (Do they call us experts, actually?).

Sam Fahmi

With a makeshift lineup for Crew SC, this could be a pivotal game. With playmakers like Higuain, Saeid and Sauro out for extended periods of time, this game may show a glimpse of how this team will play for the next 2+ months without a few key parts. This will probably NOT be the 4-4 goal fest from the previous game, but it's sure to have less drama than the last meeting.
Montreal Impact 2  Columbus Crew SC 1

Matt Weisgarber

The injury report is longer than the starting 11 this week. Almost. I don't know what line up Gregg Berhalter is going to throw out there, but Crew SC have been playing better lately. Justin Meram has the ability to change the game with one offensive sequence, which means even though Columbus will be outmatched with overall talent, they won't be out of it. To a man, Columbus will be overmatched. If Berhalter decides to take a pragmatic approach I think we see a draw. Berhalter probably won't change his approach at all however, so I predict a loss.
Montreal Impact 2   Columbus Crew SC 0

Kris Landis

Due to the close-to-the-vest style of Gregg Berhalter we don't really know the extent of some of the injuries the Crew are facing. That makes predicting a first XI difficult. Which makes predicting a match outcome darn near impossible. Considering no injuries to Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, or Cedrick were reported I think it's a decent-to-likely chance that we see all three on the pitch Saturday night, with Cedrick on the left, Meram in the middle, and Finlay out wide right. It's a very attacking set-up, and facing a very good Montreal team, it worries me. I don't see this one going well for the injury-ravaged Black & Gold, even with the possible return of Tony Tchani. I don't think it's a blow-out, but I don't think the Crew are ever really a threat in this one.
Montreal Impact 3  Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Murphy

Injuries are the name of the game for this contest. Both Crew SC and the Impact are dealing with key players sitting this one out, so it will be down to which team can adjust better. Montreal still has Harry Shipp and Didier Drogba, which would indicate they would deal with the loss of playmaker Ignacio Piatti better. I think we saw in the last match between these two that Columbus is the better side. If the Black & Gold don’t implode in that one, this could be a different club right now. I think we see the right buttons pushed by Gregg Berhalter
Columbus Crew SC 2   Montreal Impact 1

Andrew Todd-Smith

The Montreal Impact come to town once again, this time sporting a 5-4-4 record, but Columbus Crew SC is decimated by injury and could really struggle to get a decisive results against the third-place team in the Eastern Conference. And while a 4-0 U.S. Open Cup victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies this past Wednesday served as a tune-up that provided some valuable depth chart reps, I can't see the resumption of MLS play going well for Columbus against a foe of this caliber. A loss by 1 goal is perhaps, to be frank, optimistic. The defense will have to step up and Federico Higuaín will be sorely missed in the midfield. Adversity shapes teams, and the Impact will provide plenty of it.
Montreal Impact 3  Columbus Crew SC 1

Patrick Guldan

The forced lineup changes might be a blessing in disguise as Columbus will be forced to change up what had become a stale system. Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay brought different looks at forward while the return of Tony Tchani brings some mettle to the midfield. It will be a pleasant surprise.
Columbus Crew SC 2   Montreal Impact 1

Josh Mlot

This is a tough one. Columbus' lineup has questions (health-related) all over the place. What will striker look like? But to me the biggest is Tyson Wahl's health. He's the difference between a veteran center back and an inexperienced player out of position. And Didier Drogba is on the other side. But while Montreal's absences are fewer, they are huge. Can an altered Crew SC attack take advantage of no Laurent Ciman? Montreal didn't have a midweek game, which could be a bonus too. I'm going to say Wahl plays and we see a 1-1 draw. If Wahl doesn't play? 3-1 Impact.
With Wahl: Columbus Crew SC 1  Montreal Impact 1; Without Wahl: Montreal Impact 3  Columbus Crew SC 1