The Canadian Classique will start its 2019 chapter on Saturday night at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET | TSN, TVAS in Canada; MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the USA). Even Bacary Sagna, who has experienced the heat of the North London derby with Arsenal, understands that it won’t be just any other game.
“Now that I’m here I feel like a Quebecois, I feel like a Montrealer, so I want to win,” Sagna said. “This rivalry has been ongoing for a good amount of time, we all know that this is a very important game and one that we need to win.”
Having passed the midpoint in MLS, the Impact sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, while TFC is just hovering over the red line. With a win against their bitter rivals, the Impact could create a bigger gap between them and Toronto.
“We all know how hard it is to fill that gap and come back and there’s always the mental aspect of beating your rival,” said Samuel Piette earlier this week. “I think that this game is maybe the most important game of the season so far.”
For Garde, the current state of the standings is telling of both clubs across the Ontario-Quebec border.
“(Toronto) is a club that has the funds that would normally position them higher than us if the logic was respected,” Garde said.
“They are like Atlanta or NYCFC, these kinds of teams that should be above us. I think it highlights what my players have done since the beginning of the season but it’s not enough,” he added.
The Canadian Classique comes at a very welcomed moment for the Impact. For the first time this season, the Bleu-Blanc-Noir lost two league games in a row, and only drew York 9 FC in their Canadian Championship match earlier this week.
“It can be extra motivation for my players, hopefully they won’t need that because you also want positive motivation,” Garde said. “We have a target to be a playoff team at the end of the season and when you lose two games in a row you aren’t at the speed that will take you to this position.”
To make matters more intriguing, a new star by the name of Alejandro Pozuelo was added to the 2019 chapter of the Montreal-Toronto rivalry.
The Spanish midfielder was signed from Belgian club Genk and has quickly become one of TFC’s most important players. Sagna said that he will keep an eye on the new Designated Player but that the club won’t zero in on him either.
“He’s a player that brings a lot to his team and adapted very quickly,” Sagna said. “He was decisive at many occasions and we know he’s a good player but there are good players in every team so we have to do what it takes to make it difficult for him.”