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Preview: Orlando City vs. Atlanta United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Major League Soccer clash between Orlando City and Atlanta United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Orlando City and Atlanta United get their 2021 MLS seasons underway as they go head-to-head at the Explora Stadium on Saturday.

The hosts reached the playoff stages of the last campaign as a result of their third-place finish, while the visitors uncharacteristically languished in the lower echelons of the table.


Match preview

Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja during the second half against the Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium in September 2020© Reuters

Orlando City were one of the surprise packages last term as they finished third in the Eastern Conference coming off the back of consecutive 11th-placed finishes.

Skippered by the vastly-experienced Luis Nani, Oscar Pareja's men finished six points behind conference leaders Philadelphia Union, losing the joint-fewest number of games.

They edged out New York City on penalties in the first round of the playoffs, before their juggernaut was brought to a halt by New England Revolution in the next stage.

Nonetheless, it was a very fruitful journey for The Lions, who have every cause to look forward to the new season with optimism.

Orlando are unbeaten in their last four games against Saturday's opponents, including a convincing 4-1 victory in the sides' most recent meeting in October.

After ending each of the last three seasons in the top four, Atlanta United finished 12th in the Eastern conference with a dismal record of 22 points from 23 games.

Greatly affected by the absence of Josef Martinez, Gabriel Heinze's men were often toothless in attack as they averaged exactly one goal per game.

The Five Stripes will now aim to put that disappointing experience behind them, and give Heinze a season to remember as he kicks off his first full campaign at the helm of affairs following his appointment in January.

Orlando City pre-season form:
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Atlanta United pre-season form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W



Team News

Daryl Dike in action for Orlando City on November 20, 2020© Reuters

Sebastian Mendez is ruled out for the hosts' season-opener as the 23-year-old midfielder continues to battle with a muscle injury.

Alexandre Pato was snapped up as a free agent in February, and he is expected to make his Orlando City debut in this one.

The away side also have only one player unavailable, with Mohammed Adams still sidelined with a knee injury since November.

Josef Martinez suffered an injury-hit season last time out, but he will be hopeful of a different story this time as he goes in search of a second golden boot in four seasons.

Orlando City possible starting lineup:
B. Rowe; Miller, Jansson, Carlos, Smith; Urso, Rosell, Rowe; Mueller, Nani, Dike

Atlanta United possible starting lineup:
Rios Novo; Walkes, Sosa, Robinson; Lennon, Ibarra, Hyndman, Bello; Moreno, Martinez, Barco


SM words green background

We say: Orlando City 1-1 Atlanta United

The first game of every campaign is usually a chance to set the tone for the remainder of the season. With both sides expected to be amongst the top dogs this term, we are backing a share of the spoils in this one.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals 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.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Orlvso City vs Atlanta

Orlando City
54.5%
Draw
18.2%
Atlanta United
27.3%
11
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Daryl Dike in action for Orlando City on November 20, 2020
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