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Los Angeles FC-Galaxy Preview

Zlatan Ibrahimović made a smashing MLS debut versus Los Angeles FC last season. A year later, he'll be on the pitch to help the Los Angeles Galaxy remain undefeated against their rival.

The first El Trafico of 2019 will see Ibrahimović and the inconsistent Galaxy try to keep league-leading and visiting LAFC from a fourth consecutive victory on Friday night.

Ibrahimović made sure his first MLS match was a memorable one, scoring a 77th-minute equalizer then the winner in stoppage time to help the Galaxy overcome a 3-0 hole and pull off a stunning 4-3 victory over LAFC on March 31, 2018. He had another goal as the teams split the next two meetings of 2018.

There was some question whether the Galaxy star would be able to play Friday, but Ibrahimović (13 goals in 16 league matches) is expected to be on the pitch.

He picked up his fifth yellow card in last week's 3-1 home loss to San Jose. However, according to the Los Angeles Times and the MLS official website, Ibrahimović will not face a suspension because he already served a ban for one those bookings - a mix-up with NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson in May.

That's obviously good news for the Galaxy (11-8-1), who have dropped three of five overall and four of five at home. Facing LAFC (14-2-4) even with their star is still likely to be a huge challenge for the Galaxy, who can't deny just how dominant L.A.'s newest addition has been this season.

"They're in a groove, they're playing well," Galaxy defender Daniel Steres told the league's official website. "They seem to have found their identity, and they're rolling right now."

One can't argue with Steres.

LAFC is the runaway leaders in MLS on 46 points and own a remarkable goal differential of 36. It also outscored Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver and Houston 14-3 during a three-game winning streak that followed a 1-0 loss at Colorado on June 28.

"We feel good about the position we're in, but we understand that in order to compete for (a) Supporters' Shield, then we've got to continue in the right way," LAFC coach Bob Bradley told the MLS official website.

While showing off its depth, Lee Nguyen assisted on both goals by Adama Diomande and Diego Rossi added some insurance with his 11th of the season as LAFC came back from an early 1-0 deficit to beat the Dynamo 3-1 last Friday. Carlos Vela, and his league-leading 19 goals, should be well-rested after receiving the night off in that contest.

Vela had four goals in the three games against the Galaxy in 2018.

"For us, it's about the big picture," Los Angeles FC defender Steven Beitashour said. "Every game we play we want to win, regardless if it's (the) Galaxy, Montreal, Portland or whoever. If it's home, away, I don't think it really matters if we just go into every situation where we want to win.

"It's indicative of the season we're having."

Updated July 17, 2019

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