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Nov 7, 2021 at 8.30pm UK
CincinnatiFC Cincinnati
AtlantaAtlanta United
Bailey (21')
Stanko (33'), Matarrita (88')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Robinson (70'), Martinez (79')
Hernandez (64'), Araujo (86')

Preview: FC Cincinnati vs. Atlanta United - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: FC Cincinnati vs. Atlanta United - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Major League Soccer clash between FC Cincinnati and Atlanta United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Rock-bottom FC Cincinnati meet Eastern Conference rivals Atlanta United on Sunday, hoping to finally end an 11-match losing streak stretching back to September.

Meanwhile, the visitors to TQL Stadium are within touching distance of a playoff place ahead of MLS 'Decision Day', and would have to lose heavily to miss out on a spot in the season finale.

Match preview

Having previously conceded two minutes from time to draw 1-1 with Toronto, another point for Atlanta last time out effectively sealed their participation after the close of the regular season this weekend.

A goalless affair at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday evening, in their penultimate Eastern Conference fixture, means that the Five Stripes have still never beaten New York in the league, and their fate will instead be decided on Sunday.

Leading MLS with an average attendance of nearly 44,000 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium - the ninth-highest figure in the world - Atlanta have established themselves as major players on the US soccer scene since their arrival in 2017, and are now keen to replicate the success of 2018, when they lifted the MLS Cup in just their second season in the American elite.

The only scenario in which the Georgia-based side would miss out on qualification for the knockout phase would involve losing by eight goals to Cincinnati, while New York Red Bulls win or draw, and Montreal beat Orlando 1-0.

Therefore, the pressure is off Gonzalo Pineda's men, who do not tend to travel well - having won only three times this year as the visiting side. Nevertheless, they head to Ohio unbeaten in five games, with September's 4-0 win over the hosts still fresh in their minds.

Following a dispiriting spell of conceding 15 goals in three consecutive defeats, Cincinnati at least kept the scoreline down in their latest loss, but will now finish last in the Eastern Conference for the third year running.

Only once before in MLS history has a team finished bottom twice in succession, so yet another fruitless campaign will draw further criticism of the club's maligned ownership and management structure.

The Orange and Blue end the season on their worst run of a miserable year, having lost their last 11 league matches; conceding 34 goals in the process.

Not only that, but Cincinnati also failed to score for a 13th time this season in their 2-0 defeat to Philadelphia last weekend, and have accumulated a mere 20 points from 33 league games.

Interim manager Tyrone Marshall will therefore lead his side out at TQL Stadium more in hope than expectation, as they look to end the season on a positive note, against opponents who may have one eye on the playoffs.

FC Cincinnati Major League Soccer form:
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Atlanta United Major League Soccer form:
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D

Team News

After Cincinnati's limited attacking threat was diminished further by midfielder Luciano Acosta's absence last week, the Argentinian returns from a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation and should start on Sunday.

Allan Cruz, who was sent off in the defeat to Inter Miami, may also be brought back into Tyrone Marshall's team, but Maikel van der Werff (hernia), Beckham Sunderland (concussion) and on-loan defender Gustavo Vallecilla (hamstring) are all expected to miss out through injury.

In goal, former Ajax veteran Kenneth Vermeer has recently replaced ex-PSV man Przemyslaw Tyton as the hosts' last line of defence, and will hope to help keep the score down after conceding an avalanche of goals since his return to the side.

Atlanta, meanwhile, are set to be without Emerson Hyndman, who remains sidelined with an ACL injury, and Santiago Sosa (abdominal) in Ohio, but otherwise have a clean bill of health and should retain the bulk of the XI which was held goalless on Wednesday.

Though booked and ultimately substituted as he drew a blank last time out, striker Luiz Araujo has been involved in five of the last six goals Gonzalo Pineda's men have scored, so starts again up front. Fellow South Americans Ezequiel Barco and Josef Martinez could join him in an attacking trident.

At the back, the visitors' Alan Franco and Miles Robinson both excelled under constant pressure against New York, and are poised to marshal their three-man defence once more.

FC Cincinnati possible starting lineup:
Vermeer; Gyau, Cameron, Blackett, Bailey; Kubo, Medunjanin, Acosta, Barreal; Brenner, Vazquez

Atlanta United possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Robinson, Franco, Walkes; Lennon, Mulraney, Moreno, Bello; Araujo, Barco, Martinez

We say: FC Cincinnati 1-3 Atlanta United

With a playoff place all but assured, Atlanta can relax and prepare for the challenges ahead with a win that would end their regular season on a high, following successive draws during the past week.

Cincinnati are already consigned to the Eastern Conference basement, and will have their sights trained on the off-season, when they can re-build in hope of finally finding the right formula.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Away Win:data

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