Last year around this time (Aug. 21, to be exact), the Riders rolled into Montreal. A few weeks earlier (July 18, to be exact) the Alouettes had dismantled the Riders 43-10 at Mosaic Stadium. The Riders didn’t emerge victorious in the return tilt (they lost 34-25), but they did demonstrate that they could compete against the Als. It was a definite momentum-builder for the Green & White, and it helped drive them for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, where they came within a whisker of defeating the Als and claiming the Grey Cup.

This year the scenario’s a little different. In the season-opener at Mosaic Stadium the Riders prevailed 54-51 in an OT thriller. At 4-1, they’re tied for first in the West with Calgary. Theoretically, the pressure shouldn’t be on them heading into tonight’s game at revamped Percival Molson Stadium where a second deck of 5000 seats has been added, bringing capacity to 25,000.

Since their loss to the Riders, the Als have reeled off four straight wins — the first two on the road, the last two at home, where they’re currently riding an 11-game winning streak. The Riders, meanwhile, have regressed a bit in the last few weeks. They’re still chalking up Ws, but they’re of the ugly variety.

Even the most die-hard Riders fans out there, I suspect, don’t expect the Riders to win tonight … okay, maybe a few do. But they’re not rational. What the Riders need to do though is compete with the Als. They get blown out like they did last year at home, it’ll be a pretty strong signal that this year’s team isn’t yet of championship calibre.

Game time is 5:30 p.m. on TSN.

Musicwise , the Regina Folk Festival kicks off tonight. And at O’Hanlon’s Pub later, This Machine is a Fountain is playing with These City Defects backing them up.