Real Esteli vs. Columbus Crew – CONCACAF Champions League, April 8, 2021
Following a ten-year absence, Columbus returns to CONCACAF Champions League action on Thursday, April 8, facing Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli in the last 16.
The two sides have never faced each other before, although the Crew heads to Nicaragua as the firm favorite to claim a first-leg advantage.
In this Real Esteli vs. Columbus Crew betting preview, I assess the odds before sharing my prediction and betting pick.
Real Esteli vs. Columbus Crew Odds
Regardless of the home-field advantage, 10bet views Real Esteli (4.60) as the obvious outsider here, leaving Columbus (1.68) as the frontrunner to win on Thursday.
Caleb Porter’s men were lucky to avoid the stronger sides in the draw, but they can’t take any team lightly at this stage of the competition.
Real Esteli Team Analysis
Having won the Nicaraguan Primera Division last season, Real Esteli currently sits four points off the pace in the current campaign. In fact, the top five teams are separated by just five points, meaning the title race is still wide open.
Holver Flores’ men were enjoying a four-game unbeaten streak – two wins and two draws – before their previous outing, yet they suffered their third defeat of the season at the hands of Real Madriz.
With five goals to his name, Vitor Faisca is the club’s top scorer this term. Meanwhile, Henry Garcia and Richard Rodriguez each have four assists under their belt.
However, Juan Barrera is arguably Esteli’s most dangerous player. Barrera bagged 16 goals in 18 games last season and likes to orchestrate the tempo in the middle of the park, leading his side’s high-pressing approach.
Of course, Estli belongs to one of the lesser-known leagues in the federation, meaning the Crew won’t be overly familiar with their opponent’s style. The Nicaraguan champions clearly have some talented players, so Columbus will need to be careful.
Assessing the Crew’s Chances
Since winning the MLS Cup back in December, Porter’s men have played four friendly matches – and they have lost on every occasion.
Following defeats to New York City (3-0), Orlando City (1-0), and Minnesota United (5-2) at the end of March, the Black & Gold were beaten 4-2 by Toronto FC last week.
The Crew can take confidence from the fact that they have scored two goals in each of their previous two outings. But having conceded a combined total of 13 goals across their pre-season friendlies, Porter obviously has some work to do in the defensive department.
It is no secret that Columbus will need to weather the storm on Thursday. Given that this is their first competitive match in almost four months, there is bound to be some rustiness.
On the flip side, Esteli’s domestic campaign is in full swing. The Nicaraguan champs have been playing consistent games throughout 2021, making them a tricky first opponent for the Crew.
Real Esteli vs. Columbus Crew Pick
In my eyes, odds of 1.68 for the Columbus win don’t offer much value here. Yes, the Crew has a stronger roster on paper. But there is no denying that Esteli is better prepared to get something from this match.
When you consider the Crew’s iffy pre-season form, this is likely to be a tricky fixture for the Black & Gold. Having taken everything into consideration, I believe the draw is the best bet for Real Esteli vs. Columbus Crew.