Gamba Osaka will travel all the way down to Nagasaki to take on newly promoted team V-Varen Nagasaki at the Nagasaki Athletic Stadium, with both teams looking to record their first win of the season at the early kick-off time of 13:00 JST. This game is Nagasaki’s first home game as a J.League team, so expect a bouncing crowd in the port city.
This match will be the first time these two sides have ever met and this new territory will surely be a dangerous one for Gamba, who will be all too aware that Nagasaki, with their fans’ support and their own hard-work, can beat them and this potential banana skin should not be overlooked by Gamba fans. Nagasaki could not have hoped for a better chance to show off their J2 credentials when they were waiting for the fixture list. This glamour tie will show us what they can offer the league whilst for Gamba, it really does highlight that they are in J2.
Gamba will be looking to improve on their performance and result from last week’s match against Kyoto Sanga, where they managed to salvage a point against their much more impressive opponents. The positive from last week was that they did not lose, which would have happened last season.
As for Nagasaki, they had a difficult trip away to potential play-off contenders Fagiano Okayama. Nagasaki took the lead in the 1st half thanks to a Koichi Sato goal, bursting through on goal and slotting the ball past the goalkeeper after good pressure on the Fagiano players by his teammates, forcing a mistake. They looked to be heading for all three points but were denied the victory just before added-on time in the 2nd half, when Iwamaru failed to clear the ball under pressure, leading to a shot onto the bar before the ball fell to striker Arata to knock in from a few yards. Nonetheless, there were positive signs for Nagasaki, who should be full of confidence ahead of the game. Their team for last week’s match can be seen to the right.
The point that may swing the game in V-Varen’s favour is that they will have presumably a huge crowd supporting them on Sunday to push them to give their best in beating these giants from Osaka. You would expect that they will thrive-off rather than feel pressured by such support. Of course, everyone will expect Gamba to win Nagasaki should go out and play their own game. Their biggest problem will be if Gamba click like they did against Nagoya and Urawa last season; it will be near on impossible to stop Leandro from scoring and their inexperience of playing such a talented team might be a burden. Or not. The attacking threat of Gamba should wreak havoc in Nagasaki; the defence, on the other hand, will give V-Varen a chance, so goals will be expected. You cannot see Gamba playing as poorly as they did last weekend, so Nagasaki will have to tread carefully as to avoid a humiliating defeat at home. Who knows which Gamba will turn up, though!
In regards of the team selection for Gamba, you would think that, for the most part, the team will stay the same. Akira Kaji has returned from his injury but it seems that this match may be a bit too early for him to be in the starting eleven yet. Preferably, Iwashita and Niwa will switch places as the latter had a torrid time against the impressive Kyoto. Myojin and Abe would be the most likely to drop out of this week’s starting eleven as Myojin had a rough time against Kyoto and he needs rest in his older years, whilst Futagawa came off the bench last week and will be pushing for a first-team spot. The Yomiuri is reporting that Leandro may miss the match; if true, it would be a massive blow but you would expect that the back-up strikers will be able to do the job, with Kawanishi, Hirai, Hoshihara and Paulinho all in with a shout, or even playing Endo off Ienaga would suffice. Only time will tell.
My player to watch this weekend is Akihiro Ienaga. He was stopped from playing his normal game last week thanks largely to Kyoto’s desire and ability to close down the space that he needs for his game to work. As Gamba are away, you would expect there to be more space for him to work in and he will surely be much more effective than last week. Hopefully he will react positively to a bad start last time out.
The final result prediction is 1-3 to Gamba Osaka. I cannot see Gamba keeping a clean sheet whilst Niwa is in the team although Kaji’s return to training is a positive sign. Even if Nagasaki give it their all, Gamba’s overall quality should be enough to come away with all three points. Gamba’s experience and firepower should overwhelm V-Varen in the end. This match will be by no means simple but with Leandro (if fit), Gamba always have a chance. If Ienaga and Endo can influence the match a lot more than last week, they should be able to help the side take all three points back to Banpaku.