About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC are in a great position going into this match, currently tied atop the group with Saprissa but with a game in hand and owning the goal differential advantage. Their final home match will come against the weakest team in the group tonight, and their 3-1 drubbing of Saprissa should give them confidence going into this match. The biggest difference between those two matches is likely going to be the starting lineup. Unlike last week, where Sporting had the weekend off, they have an MLS match on Friday against New England, so a reserve heavy lineup is likely tonight.
Going into their final match of the group stage, Real Esteli still has a minuscule chance of winning the group and advancing to the quarterfinals. In order to do that, they need to win tonight by four or give goals, then hope for a draw between Sporting and Saprissa in October. Like I said, miniscule. Regardless, they held Sporting KC to a draw at home and also earned a draw last year at Sporting Park, so they could definitely give Sporting fits tonight. They've won their only league match since playing Sporting KC, which sandwiched their 3-0 away loss to Saprissa.
Who to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Toni Dovale
Dovale has been Sporting KC's Champions League MVP this year, scoring three of the four goals in the 2014-2015 group stage. With as much winger depth as Sporting has, he hasn't been able to get consistent starting time but he has been slotted in the lineup during these champions league matches. This allows him to show what he can do against some defenses that aren't necessarily up to MLS standards. With Sporting likely saving Graham Zusi and Soony Saad for the big Friday match, Dovale should be called upon tonight to provide some offense on the wing.
Real Esteli- Juan Barerra
Barrera is the big playmaker for Real Esteli, creating the opportunity for Real Esteli to score in the 6th minute. He played as a withdrawn forward in the match against Sporting KC, but attacked out wide against Saprissa so he has the ability to attack from many different angles. In a match where Esteli need a win to have even the tiniest chance, Barrera is going to need to be big.
Why They'll Win
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting wasn't able to really let their offense roll during the 1-1 draw in Nicaragua due to many different factors. A couple of those factors are different this match, including a better playing surface, home field advantage and a rested lineup. Sporting has the talent to beat Real Esteli, who recently gave up three goals at Saprissa. If Sporting can take advantage of Esteli like Saprissa did, Sporting will have no problem winning this match by multiple goals.
In Nicaragua, Esteli was able to create some chances, especially late, against Sporting KC. When Sporting is put out of their element, they are more susceptible to give up chances on a counter. If Esteli can come into Sporting Park tonight and make the counter dangerous, they can put on a similar performance to last year. They are facing a similar, reserve-heavy lineup and have the new playmakers like Barrera to make Sporting pay if they are caught too far forward.
Sporting KC: Gruenebaum; Juliao, Collin, Olum, Ellis; Claros, Lopez, Feilhaber; Dovale, Bieler, Zizzo.
Real Esteli: Lorente; Kardek, Praes; Rosas, Mejia, Jefinho, Rodriguez, Valiente; Barrera, Calero, Wilson.