Canada to tighten grip on CONCACAF World Cup spot
It's fourth versus third at the BMO Field in the CONCACAF qualifying section for next year's World Cup in Qatar, with both Canada and Panama impressing in fits and starts during their five matches to date. The hosts have already played and drawn with group favourites Mexico and USMNT away from home, but must find a way to turn ties into wins against their rivals for an automatic spot. Los Canaleros, meanwhile, are a point ahead, having dispatched an insipid US side 2-0 in their last encounter. Read our preview here:
Both sides sit where they need to be come the end of the pool in March, and surprisingly for John Herdman's charges, their unbeaten start owes as much to a resolute defence as it does to one of the most exciting attacks outside Europe on the international stage. Though they remain on paper the weakest in their own third, to have only conceded three in five in a run that has seen them clash against the Mexico-US duopoly on the road is to be applauded. The versatile right-sided Tajon Buchanan, back from suspension, makes up one of the attacking midfield trio behind Lille striker Jonathan David, and the onus will be on them to take the game to the visitors. The latter will want to grab a goal to rediscover his form for the Canucks, and the explosive pace and creativity they have on the counter will be key, as will finding space between an XI that will put in a deep block.
Panama have emerged as the front-runners from the 'best of the rest', and will be pushing to maintain at least third place, especially given the uncertainty surrounding which zone the play-off will be against. Thomas Christiansen won't be focused on that, however, and will be keen to stress the importance of not looking ahead too far. The main bit of intrigue with regards to the starting lineup will be whether combative midfielder Aníbal Godoy is fit enough to keep his spot in the engine room, having scored the vital opener at home to USMNT. If the visitors do need a change of tack late on, The Strongest forward Rolando Blackburn will pose a different sort of threat to the home defence, having earned a one in four record for a normally conservative nation in his 43 caps to date.
Love it or leaf it
Another tense, low-scoring fixture is on the cards, especially if Panama can frustrate Canada for the first half or longer. However, their quality should tell in the end, with bet365 offering odds of 5.00 for a 1-0 home win.