MONTREAL — Didier Drogba is ready to return for the Montreal Impact. It only remains to be seen whether or not he'll be in the starting lineup when they take on New York City FC -- and his former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard -- at Stade Saputo on Sunday (5 pm ET, ESPN, TSN).
Drogba practiced with his teammates Friday after missing Montreal's previous three games because of a thigh injury, though he did not talk to reporters afterward. Impact coach Mauro Biello said he had not determined whether or not he will start Drogba, who did not make the Impact's recent trip to Salt Lake City and Portland.
“We'll see [Saturday] after training how he feels, and then we'll make that decision,” Biello said on Friday.
While he can look forward to having Drogba back in the lineup, Biello is upset that he will not have midfielder Ignacio Piatti at his disposal Sunday.
The MLS Disciplinary Committee decided Friday to suspend Piatti for his foul on Alvas Powell in the 18th minute of Montreal's game in Portland on Wednesday, which was deemed to be serious foul play that endangered the safety of an opponent. Piatti received a yellow card for the play.
“Obviously it's frustrating,” Biello said. “You think of a guy like Nacho, he's not a guy who's going to go out there and try to hurt someone or be dirty. I think it was a situation where a part of the game where he reached out, and the guy cut in front of him and his foot grabbed the back of his leg. I don't think the intention was there for him to hurt Powell.”
The suspension spoiled a potential showdown between the two top goal scorers in MLS this season.
Piatti scored his team-leading 11th goal against Portland on a remarkable solo effort. He's now second in the league, behind only New York City FC's David Villa, who leads MLS with 12 goals.
“It's unfortunate that they took this decision before a big game,” Biello said. “Nationally televised, the two leading scorers in the league, they're going head to head, plus all the other stars. So for me it's disappointing, but that's the decision that they took, and now it's an opportunity for someone else to step in there and get the job done for us.”
On Sunday, Mntreal will also be without Belgian defender Laurent Ciman, who sustained an ankle injury during the Impact's 1-1 draw Wednesday.
“It's not a serious injury and he's a guy that heals fast, and hopefully he can be back in 10 days to two weeks,” Biello said.
“I think Matteo brings some experience, a guy that's comfortable around goal, a guy that's scored some goals in his career in second division in Italy but has also had time in first division,” Biello said. “So it's someone that is able to get in behind with his pace, which we thought was very important to balance out our attack in terms of what we want in our offensive animation.”
“He's played on the left and on the right,” he said. “It's a profile that we like in terms of his ability to close down. He's an athlete, super athlete, his ability to get up and down, join the attack -- this is what fits into our philosophy of how we want to play.”