| Tue 21/11/2017 - 06:00 EST

Columbus vs Toronto: Swallow Your Pride And Bet On The Crew

Columbus vs Toronto: Swallow Your Pride And Bet On The Crew

MLS Eastern Conference Finals First Leg Picks

Toronto FC have been the benchmark in the MLS all season, and after their heartbreaking loss to Seattle via penalty shootout in last year's final the Reds have looked focussed and determined throughout 2017. They remain the favourites to be the first Canadian side to lift the MLS Cup trophy, and become the first team to win both the Supporter's Shield and the Cup since LA Galaxy did the double in 2011.

Yet they will face a stern test against the form team of the competition. Aside from their 2-0 loss in New York two weeks ago (which they could afford due to their comprehensive 4-1 win at home in the semi-final first leg), the Crew have not lost in the MLS since August 5th. More importantly, Columbus have not lost a home fixture at the MAPFRE Stadium since July 1st, and it is the Ohio-based team that are at firm odds to get a positive result on Tuesday night.

The first leg kicks off on Tuesday, 21st November at 8:00pm EST and it is sure to be an emotional evening in Ohio. With talks of the Crew potentially moving to Austin, Texas, the club's final home game in 2016 could also be their last in the foreseeable future. When faced with a similar prospect against New York City FC, Columbus rose to the challenge magnificently and ran out 4-1 victors.

Below we preview the match in detail and tell you who we believe will come out on top. We also list our top betting picks, with odds provided by Sports Interaction.

Columbus to clinch a narrow victory (+108) Play Now

Altidore and Giovinco Heavy Omissions

Toronto FC will travel to Columbus without their two first-choice attacking weapons. Jozy Altidore of course picked up a red card in the side's 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in the second leg of their semi-final and failed to have the suspension overturned, while Sebastian Giovinco will also be absent after earning a yellow card in each of the matches against New York.

Their omission will severely dent the sides hopes of a crucial away goal, although they do have a couple of options. Tosaint Ricketts normally comes off the bench for the Reds (and was a 2016 postseason weapon), so he and attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez could potentially feature at the top of the line. Ricketts was the hero in the most recent game between the two sides at the MAPFRE; he scored in the 81st and 90th minute back in May to give the Reds a come-from behind victory.

The Crew is 13-18 at Home in 2017

It is likely though, given that the first leg is away from home, that Greg Vanney will set up the side defensively and focus on leaving Ohio with the tie still in the balance.

However, keeping Columbus quiet at home will be a very tough challenge - the Crew have won 13 of their 18 home MLS matches in 2017 and average just over two goals per game.

Ola Kamara will again lead the line for the Crew, as he has done practically all season. His early goal against New York in the semi-final first leg really set the scene for their dominant performance, and scoring early will be crucial to Columbus' chances of victory here.

Kamara's stellar season has featured nineteen goals, placing him in the top five strikers in the MLS, and earned the Norwegian a recall to the national team.

Columbus Condemned To Win First Leg

Given that Altidore and Giovinco will return in front of a raucous home crowd in Toronto next week, Columbus realistically have to win the first leg to have any chance of progression. While it will be tough to break down one of the best defensive teams in the MLS, we believe that the Crew are in good enough form to record another  victory at MAPFRE Stadium in front of a sellout crowd. 

Sports Interaction has Columbus as favourites to win this fixture at home, although if the odds are to be believed it's going to be a very close match. As it stands, Columbus are available to pick at +108, while you can get Toronto FC at +215 and +268 for the draw. Our tip is a narrow victory to the home side that will keep the tie wide open heading back to Toronto in just over a week.

My Team's Next MatchToronto

Take These Betting Tips On Your Way

Columbus and Toronto will contest over two matches, so there are several different betting options available. You will be able to place a bet on each individual match as you normally would, with all three full-time results (win, loss and draw) available.

Most sportsbooks will also allow you to place a wager on which team will progress to the next round - this will be a simple head-to-head bet with only two outcomes.

Ola Kamara is paying +305 for first goalscorer in this fixture, which in our opinion is a steal considering the number of times this season he has hit the back of the net before any other player. He also offers -120 to score in the match at any time, which is a good conservative option.

The over/under is set at 2.5 goals for this match, with the under paying +102. This looks to be the ideal bet here - we can't see Toronto FC being too effective in front of goal without their top attacking players, while Columbus will be up against a strong defensive unit that will be tough to break down. The most likely scores in this fixture will be 0-0, 1-0, 2-0 or 1-1, so this is a great option.

Surprisingly, the 'Both Teams to Score' market is offering higher odds for 'No'. As outlined above, there is a strong possibility that Toronto FC will be held scoreless at the MAPFRE, so the +113 available looks to be a good bet.

Make sure you take a look at all of our betting partners and explore the lines on offer. As always, we will keep you up to date with all the latest and provide ongoing support. 

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