RSL will have to overcome history and the hot foot of Federico Higuain to stay comfortable in first place.
The Royals still lead all of Major League Soccer with 42 points, but following a loss to Los Angeles and narrowly avoiding the same fate against Portland thanks to a stoppage-time goal from Cole Grossman, they can ill afford another poor result with seemingly half the league in striking distance of the top spot.
Real will have to buck recent trends if it wants that win, however. Columbus has won the last three meetings between these two sides. RSL hasn't won a league match against The Crew in over three years.
Columbus has been on good form in recent weeks, defeating conference rivals New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC, but it will take more than that to erase the disastrous form which saw the Ohioans lose six of the seven MLS games preceding those wins. The Crew are seven points out of the final playoff spot, and have played one more game than that berth's current occupant, the Houston Dynamo.
The Crew will rely heavily on the offense of Federico Higuain, especially with important player like Eddie Gaven (L ACL rupture), Glauber (L ACL Rupture), and starting keeper Andy Gruenebaum (L Shoulder Weakness) out injured. Higuain scored all four of the goals in Columbus' recent wins, and leads the offense for the season in both goals (nine) and assists (six).
Much happier is the selection news for RSL. The claret-and-cobalt will miss Yordany Alvarez through suspension, but could welcome back the vital of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio. The Utah club will however, be without the services of Rich Balchan (L shoulder surgery), Josh Saunders (L knee ACL), John Stertzer (R shoulder surgery) and Kwame Watson-Siriboe (R knee ACL), while Chris Schuler (L foot pain) is listed as questionable.