MONTREAL - Dominic Oduro sees nothing wrong with throwing out a little trash talk with a key rival coming to town.
So the Montreal forward opened his remarks to the media this week by saying the Impact are a better team now than the last time they faced Toronto FC.
Back in October, riding the momentum of Didier Drogba's arrival, the Impact beat Toronto 2-1 in the final game of the regular season to win home-field advantage in the post-season. Montreal then blanked Toronto 3-0 in a one-game playoff.
A full house is expected when the rivals meet Saturday afternoon in the first match of the season at Saputo Stadium.
It is actually TFC that looks to have improved markedly on defence, building a 2-2-2 record entirely on the road. The Impact, meanwhile, have gone 4-2-0 with two road wins despite star striker Didier Drogba being limited to only two second-half appearances as a substitute.
"They haven't played a very dynamic team like us," Oduro said this week. "Our attack is very lethal with Drogba back and (Ignacio) Piatti in shape and with the way we've been playing lately."
When the danger of supplying bulletin board material was mentioned, Oduro said "a bit of trash talk here and there is good for the game.
"I'm not saying anything bad. I went on the radio and guaranteed a win. I'm pretty sure Toronto is saying the same. Why not? The rivalry is good for Canadian soccer."
Both clubs have shown signs they could be the teams to beat in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference this season.
TFC is playing its first eight matches away from home while BMO Field gets an upgrade and have already shown what they can do with a tighter defence to go with scoring stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. They will get a major test as Drogba, who entered in the 50th minute and scored in a 2-1 win in Chicago last Saturday, likely gets his first start of the campaign.
"First and foremost, we're in a good spot," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "We feel good about where we are in terms of the (extended road) trip, going into this game.
"Obviously, there's an axe to grind from our side because of what happened last year in the last two games of the season. Obviously, the supporters take it very personally with these rivalry games."
Toronto is coming off a 1-0 win at D.C. United, where Giovinco scored early and the defence did the rest.
One change is expected, with Damien Perquis likely to take over from Josh Williams in the central defence beside Drew Moor.
They should have Drogba to contend with for at least the first 60 or 70 minutes. When the Chelsea legend came on last week, the speedy Oduro moved to the right wing and set up two goals.
Marco Donadel returned from injury last week and may start as a holding midfielder, but there were questions about the health of central defender Victor Cabrera after taking a knock on the head in Chicago. Back-line general Laurent Ciman and the rest of the Montreal defence will try to limit Giovinco's artistry as they did in October.
"We respect Giovinco, he was MVP of the league," said coach Mauro Biello. "He's the engine of the team.
"You have to find a way to slow him down."
The Impact, who played their first two home games of the season at Olympic Stadium, will be starting a run of three games in eight days that takes them to New York City on Wednesday and home against Colorado on April 30.
TFC has one more on the road May 1 at Portland before finally starting a run of home games May 7 against Dallas.
Vanney wants his squad to be ready for Montreal but not to be too caught up with revenge.
"We know we're close to getting home," he said. "We know how important this game is for our fans as well."