Match Preview – 17/03/2013 – J2: Section 3 – Gamba Osaka v Yokohama FC

After their first win of the season away to new boys V-Varen Nagasaki, Gamba will be looking to hit back-to-back wins in the league since their impressive and huge wins against Nagoya Grampus and Consadole Sapporo (5-0 and 7-2 respectively) as well as their first clean sheet of the season, with the last at home being all the way back on the 26th November 2011 against Vegalta Sendai, when we were chasing the J1 title. Yokohama FC are the next visitors in town, with this home game being against another promotion rival. Kick-off will be at 16:00 JST at Banpaku.

Both teams sit on four points from their first two games, with Gamba having the “potentially” tougher schedules thus far out of the two, with a home Kansai Derby game against the impressive Kyoto Sanga (3-3 DRAW) and a what-should-have-been-harder-than-it-was trip to newly promoted V-Varen Nagasaki (3-1 WIN). Yokohama FC, on the other hand, have had perceived “simpler” matches, firstly away to relegation candidates FC Gifu (2-0 WIN) and a home game against the un-fancied Tokushima Vortis (2-2 DRAW). Yokohama struggled to break down Gifu, with both their goals coming in the last 10 minutes whilst their 2-2 draw with Tokushima saw them take and lose the lead twice. It is safe to say that Gamba will be happier with their four points than Yokohama.

Although Yokohama FC are much fancied to take a place in at least the play-off spots, they and Gamba have only met twice before. These matches were in Yokohama FC’s only J.League 1 campaign back in 2006, where they finished last with just 16 points. In their games against Gamba, they succumbed to a 2-1 away defeat, with Endo and Hashimoto scoring the goals before a late consolation through Hiramoto. At home, Yokohama managed a 1-1 draw, with Endo putting Gamba ahead half-way through the 2nd half only for Yokohama to equalise two minutes later through Wada, with the game ending 1-1. Not much of a history but I am sure fans would take those results against Yokohama for this season, no questions asked.

Despite their loss in the semi-final of the play-offs against JEF United 4-0 at home, Yokohama have been on a very impressive run since a dreadful start to the 2012 campaign. Their away form stands out as extremely positive, with 14 wins over an 18 match period, with just two defeats in that time. They have scored 33 goals whilst conceding just 13, taking away 10 clean sheets. Yokohama failed to score in just two away matches all season, firstly in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of JEF and a 0-0 draw against Kataller Toyoma. They certainly will be no pushovers.

Yokohama FC v Tokushima VortisConversely, they have struggled in their first two matches to get the right results and a 2-2 draw against Tokushima Vortis is not what anyone expected but, having watched the game, Vortis were strong and battled well for their point. It will be interesting if their struggles thus far will continue against a confident-looking Gamba team that will be more than happy with their four points. You must keep an eye out for Shinichi Terada, who will be making his return to Banpaku after having several loan periods at Yokohama from Gamba before making his move permanent this season.

Concerning their team selection, I have no news about injuries or changes that they will make, so assume that they will keep the same team that drew with Tokushima, which can be seen on the left.

As for our team selection, one would presume that Leandro and Ienaga have recovered from the flu and a fever respectively, giving Kenta many decisions to make – a manager’s nightmare but a good nightmare. Shoki Hirai and Takahiro Futagawa both got their foot in the door with their goals and performances whilst Hiroyuki Abe and Shu Kurata will be looking to stay in the starting eleven. You would assume Leandro would make it back into the team, unfortunately for Hirai, whilst Ienaga will be left on the bench as the three

behind Hirai were magnificent last weekend. More positive news come with the return of Akira Kaji, who played in a 3-0 training match win against Fagiano Okayama at Banpaku last Monday. He will be hoping to make at least the bench –  as a fan, I want to see him back on the pitch as soon as possible but I want him to be eased into the first team again. You can see my predicted team on the right. Who knows if I will be spot-on or way off the mark!

GAMBA OSAKA v Yokohama FC Prediction

Keep your eye on Keisuke Iwashita this weekend. With Konno heading off with Endo to the national team’s matches in the Middle East after this match, Iwashita will be without Konno for two games and will more than likely partner Niwa at the heart of defence. He has been suspect in his defence so far so we will be hoping that he can give a commanding and reassuring performance for the fans that fear Konno’s absence at the back. You can do it, Keisuke!

The final result will be 3-0 to Gamba Osaka. Maybe this is a brave call given that we have not kept a home clean sheet for almost 17 months but the pattern has to stop somewhere, right? Iwashita will pull out all the stops to impress and prove his worth as mentioned above whilst the fluid front four, whoever that will be, should have more than enough for any defence. As long as Gamba understand that the Kyoto blueprint may be used again, they should know how to deal with it this time. Given the total control of last week’s match, minus the final 10 minutes, you would predict the same again, even against the very best J2 has to offer. My apologies to Yokohama FC, but you should be no match for us IF we eradicate the defensive lapses. Last week gives me confidence in a team that inspires no confidence at the back, but you cannot blame me for being hopeful, can you?

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