Esteli comes into their final game of the group stage needing a win to keep their slim hopes of advancing alive. For Esteli to advance they need a big win against KC tomorrow and then need a draw between KC and Saprissa in Costa Rica to advance. That'll be a tall task for a team that has never won a game in the Champions League in tomorrow's game. But this is the same team that came into Sporting Park last year and grabbed the lead in KC before a Jacob Peterson goal salvaged a point for KC. They still have Rudel Calero, who scored the goal in Kansas City last year in their squad.
Kansas City will likely see some squad rotation for this game. Not only will it be the second game in six days, it's the second of three in nine as Kansas City host the New England Revolution in an MLS regular season match that will be very important for Kansas City. Those things would seem to point to a bit more reserve heavy lineup for KC. Eric Kronberg looks to make his return from injury after paper work kept him out of the Saprissa game. Also likely to be in the starting eleven for KC tomorrow is Lawrence Olum, who is unable to play on Friday against New England due to yellow card accumulation. I'd still expect a few starters to play tomorrow, mainly because of KC's lack of depth in the back leading to a number of those issues, but I think players like Dom Dwyer and Toni Dovale will be rested ahead of Friday's game.
Ellis - Olum - Besler - Sinovic
Claros - Lopez
Saad - Bieler - Sapong
Number To Remember - 3 - Really this game is all about the three points with the win. A win puts Saprissa in the position of needing a multi-goal win against KC for them to advance when the two teams meet in October.
Key Match Up - KC's defense vs Esteli attack - With the Ike Opara injury, KC's center back depth has suffered greatly. With Olum suspended for the Revolution game it's tempting to play him there, especially with Aurelien Collin dealing with an injury. But that forces Jorge Claros to likely start three games in a little over a week in the center of midfield for KC, as you likely don't want to have Paulo Nagamura doing that.
PREDICTION - Considering last year's result at home against Esteli, I expect that Vermes has the team ready to come out and take care of business this time. He'll have an eye towards Friday and a very important league game against the Revolution that will see him rest a couple starters, but even with some rested, KC should be able to take care of business against Esteli. Esteli isn't a club that is at an MLS level, KC should be able to take care of business with a few reserves in the game. I expect Vermes has drilled last year's game into the team's head and they'll come out and take care of business tomorrow.
SKC - 2 (Saad, Bieler)
RE - 0