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Facing the last-place Chicago Fire is a match the Montreal Impact not only want to win, it’s one they may have to win.

The Impact are clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot in the MLS Eastern Conference, but their closest rivals have games in hand. And the schedule will only get tougher heading into the final two months of the regular season.

Montreal (9-13-3) hopes to shake off of a four-game winless run (0-1-3) when it plays host to Chicago (6-14-5) on Saturday night at Saputo Stadium.

The Fire, who surged to a third-place finish under coach Valjko Paunovic last season, have lost seven league games in a row, but they beat the Impact 1-0 on a last minute goal May 9 in Chicago, at a time when Montreal was struggling.

Chicago also beat the Impact 1-0 on their last visit to Montreal last September.

“They played a lot of games in July and they didn’t win so many but they are still dangerous and they have attacking players who can be very threatening, like (Aleksandar) Katai and Raheem (Edwards),” Impact coach Remi Garde said this week. “The game is important for them as well. They didn’t give up.”

Montreal traded Edwards to Chicago on July 16 for $400,000 in targeted allocation money.

The Fire also have German star Bastien Schweinsteiger and striker Nemanja Nikolic, a 24-goal scorer in 2017 who has been limited to 10 this season.

“Earlier this season we played against them and they shut us down and beat us in the last minute,” said midfielder Ken Krolicki. “We can’t take them lightly.

“Obviously they have quality players who can punish us if we go into this game thinking that we’re going to beat them without working hard. Our mentality can’t change.”

It will be a first home game for three players acquired last week as the summer transfer window closed. It’s uncertain if former Arsenal and Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna, midfielder Micheal Azira or forward Quincy Amarikwa will start, but they may see action off the bench.

Among them, the 35-year-old Sagna was the key signing. Garde hopes to see chemistry build on the right side between Sagna and forward Alejandro Silva to boost the club’s options on attack. His ability to shut off opposition crosses would help as well.

“He’ll bring the mentality of a great player who played for big clubs. That’s a bonus for us,” said defender Rudy Camacho.

The Impact are also close to getting central defender Zakaria Diallo back. The club’s top off-season signing tore an Achilles tendon three days before the start of the regular season and has yet to play a match that counts.

The injection of veteran talent may be key heading into the final nine games of the season. Montreal is tied with Philadelphia on 30 points, but the Union has two games in hand. So does seventh-place New England.

And then there is D.C. United, which is 3-0-1 in four games after acquiring England star Wayne Rooney and, with four games in hand, may soon be challenging for a playoff spot. There is also Toronto FC, last year’s league champions who have dropped to 10th place,b ut who have got injured players back and look ready to make a charge.

The Impact have two games left against TFC, including next week in Toronto.

CHICAGO (6-14-5) AT MONTREAL (9-13-3)

Saturday, Saputo Stadium

STAYING HOT: After starting the season 3-10, the Impact have gone 6-3-3 since early June.

RUNNING COLD: Chicago has not won a league game since June 30. Counting U.S. Open Cup matches, they are 1-8-0 since that date.

HIGHLIGHT GOAL: Montreal fullback Jukka Raitala’s first career tally – a left-footed strike from distance against Salt Lake – was voted MLS goal of the week.

HE’S GONE: The Impact waived forward Nick DePuy. The 2017 first-round draft pick played in five MLS games, none this season.

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