Montreal full of confidence

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

MONTREAL -- For the first time in four seasons, the Alouettes will play a playoff game at home and few people will care.

A crowd of only 35,000 is expected today to watch the Als play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East Division semi-final at Olympic Stadium.

In the past three seasons, the Als finished in first and played host to the division final, playing in front of a packed and noisy crowd of 60,000.

But the Als lost much of their crowd support when they were embarrassed by the Argos 49-23 in the third-last game of the season, the final home game for Montreal. The loss effectively dropped them into second place.

Now they face the Roughriders, who finished fourth in the Western Division and have crossed over to the East because at 9-9 they had a better regular-season record than the third-place team in the East Division.

The winner will travel to Toronto to play the Argos in the East Division final one week today.

The Als are hoping to get there, with or without crowd support.

"It's going to be a lot different, a little empty, and to me it's disappointing," centre Bryan Chiu said. "But what can you expect based on the performance we had a couple weeks ago against Toronto.

"We just know it's do or die. If you don't lay it all on the line and come to play there's no tomorrow. You're going to have to live with that the whole off-season. Among the players we've all been telling each other, 'Let it all hang out because there's nothing else to play for.'

"If we start thinking about the (division) final, we might not get there. We can't look past Saskatchewan to get to Toronto. We have to play this game and perform because if we don't, we have nothing to worry about for the following week."

Defensive end Anwar Stewart said the Als are primed.

"We've got to put or we shut up," he said. "If we come out and play our best game and they play their best game, we will win, no matter what ... We're going to come in and blow this thing up. We're going to come in and just have a great time and just show everybody we're a contender for the Grey Cup and it starts (today)."

Quarterback Anthony Calvillo said there's a lot of confidence among the team after a great October, notwithstanding the loss to Toronto, but Saskatchewan poses a challenge.

"Toronto pretty much has the best defence in the league. Everybody knows what they do, but they do it so well," he said. "With Saskatchewan, they're probably the second best. But the thing we don't know is what kind of defence they're going to be in because they play so many coverages."

The Als are expected to play with more pressure on defence after making some recent personnel changes.

"Staying pat was not the correct thing to do," head coach Don Matthews said. "If by changing people made other people play harder, then that was successful."


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