MSU takes a two-game winning streak into Ann Arbor on Saturday to take on their in-state rivals, the University of Michigan, for the third time this season.
This time, the stakes will be a little higher than before. This game is the first game of the Big Ten tournament for MSU as they look to build upon a streak of very well-played games late in the season.
The Spartans look to avenge their losses to U of M this season, especially the loss on March 23, when U of M capitalized on a controversial red card given to MSU and went on to win 2-1 in overtime.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the Spartans will change up this time around, seeing as how in the last matchup they were winning with eight minutes left in regulation. One area that will be different this time around is the health of the Spartans as the injury bug has passed through the team and they are, for the most part, healthy as a team.
“We have Farai (Mutatu) back," MSU Head Coach Damon Rensing said. "Farai didn’t play against Michigan, and not only is he usally one of the better players on the field, but he’s an important leader for us."
With this being such a big game at such an important time of the season, the Spartans look to embrace the emotions and the revenge factor in the upcoming matchup, but they know that they’ll need to add execution along with this motivation.
“I don’t think you can call it a normal game any time we play,” Rensing said. “That revenge works for a handful of minutes in the game, ... but at the end of the day it’ll have to settle down and be a soccer match.”
One of MSU’s most improved areas this season has been their back line of defense. With Will Perkins, who was a medical redshirt last year, coming back into the lineup and winning Defensive Player of the week, he leads a defensive unit of himself, Luke Morrell, Nick Stone, Dante Morrissette and Connor Brazil, who after giving up first-half goals in the first part of the season have all matured and shaped this defense into a formidable force.
“We’re giving up less goals early, we’re giving our offense a chance to play a little more relaxed and free, and when you can do that you’ll score more as well,” said Rensing. “I think that back four unit is getting tighter and tighter.”
The Spartans don't care about the Wolverines being the 20th ranked team in the nation, and they certainly don't care that their own record is one below .500. After nearly beating this Michigan team twice already, records are thrown out the window, and MSU knows that they’ve hit their stride at the right time. They’ve learned to embrace the underdog mentality, and with this chip on their shoulder, watch out for them to not only upset Michigan but make a run in this Big Ten tournament.
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