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The season is finally here! For the first time in a decade, the Columbus Crew will play a CONCACAF Champions League match on Thursday to begin the 2021 campaign. The Crew are in Managua, Nicaragua to face off against Nicaraguan powerhouse Real Esteli in the first leg of the Round of 16 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
This match has huge implications for next Thursday’s second leg with the Black & Gold having a chance to gain an edge with some away goals. If the matchup is tied on aggregate after the second leg, the team with the most away goals will advance.
It’s been 117 days since the Crew played its last competitive match. That match resulted in an MLS Cup championship and Champions League berth with a 3-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders in historic Crew Stadium. Since that day, the Black & Gold have strengthened the roster with massive editions like Kevin Molino, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alexandru Matan. The club still has all of its core players from last season like Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes, Jonathan Mensah, Darlington Nagbe and more. Now Columbus is one of five teams trying to win MLS its first Champions League crown.
Real Esteli enters the competition having qualified as the fifth place finishers of the 2020 CONCACAF League that concluded this past February. It’s the Train of the North’s seventh appearance in the Champions League and first since 2016-17. The team has its eyes set on its first quarterfinal berth ever if Real can pull off the humungous upset again Columbus. Esteli is the second most successful team in Nicaraguan football with 18 Primera Division titles with a championship this past season.
While the Crew has yet to play a game in 2021, Esteli is in the midst of the Clausura section of the 2020-21 Nicaraguan Primera Division season. The team has just two wins in its last six league matches and sit in fourth place with six matches to go.
Real Esteli host Columbus Crew in the Round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League today, April 8, 2021. Here, you will find everything there is to know about this soccer match, such as predictions, odds, storylines, and how to watch or live stream the game.
This will be their first overall meeting. Real Esteli and Columbus Crew have never clashed before at the CONCACAF Champions League.
The game will be played at 8:00 PM (ET), at the Estadio Independencia in Estelí. It promises to be an exciting match as they meet for the first time ever.
Real Esteli vs Columbus Crew: Match Information
Date: Thursday, April 8, 2021
Time: 8:00 PM (ET)
Location: Estadio Independencia, Estelí
Real Esteli host Columbus Crew at the Nicaragua National Football Stadium in their CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 first leg fixture.
The hosts are the reigning champions of the Liga Primera de Nicaragua and have just two wins in their last five outings.
Columbus Crew lifted the MLS Cup in December and haven’t played a competitive fixture since their 3-0 win over Seattle Sounders.The visitors have some injury
concerns for this first leg fixture. Midfielder Artur has been ruled out on account of a hernia injury. Darlington Nagbe will likely fill in for the influential midfielder.
Milton Valenzuela has not featured in the friendlies and is a doubt for this fixture. Kevin Molino has been dealing with a hamstring issue but featured in the latest friendly fixture against Orlando City.
Alexandru Matan has been ruled out of the first leg as his signing is not officially complete.
Columbus Crew have not won a game since their victory in the MLS final. Some of their key players were busy with international duty and missed their friendly games. This game provides Crew with an opportunity to return to winning ways in style.
Real Esteli have just two wins in their last five outings and lost their latest game against Real Madriz at home. It is difficult to predict the outcome of this game as both clubs have produced inconsistent results in their recent outings.
Columbus Crew are the better side on paper and should be able to record a win here.