Match Preview – 24/03/2013 – J2: Section 5 – Gamba Osaka v JEF United Chiba

With the hugely disappointing, annoying, frustrating, upsetting and disgraceful 2-2 against Roasso Kumamoto on Wednesday (with the tone set by the be-headers of Roasso-Kun), Gamba will be looking to put that disappointment behind them when they face JEF United Chiba at Banpaku on Sunday at 16:00 local time in what should be a clash between promotion candidates or, if Chiba get their way, between teams that are perennial underachievers in recent times.

Despite drawing on Wednesday, Gamba magically managed to stay in 5th place and cut the gap to Vissel Kobe down to three points after their Kansai rivals were destroyed by fellow Kansai rivals Kyoto Sanga. JEF stumbled to a 1-1 draw, at home, against Gainare Tottori which meant they also hit back-to-back draws, with them sitting on five points in 10th place.

JEF UNITED CHIBA v Gainare Tottori

As for the historical data between these two sides, Gamba have been unbeaten in the last seven matches in all competitions with their last defeat in the league coming on the penultimate date of the 2005 season, a result that almost cost us the title. Since that day, Gamba have secured four consecutive clean sheets at home and will be looking to add to that tally against a JEF side that put 3 past Kumamoto but only one goal in their other three games. Gamba have had the better history against JEF at home too, with 10 wins from 20 matches with JEF winning just 6. We will also be looking to get back-to-back home clean sheets since we won 1-0 against both Kashima Antlers and Vegalta Sendai in November 2011. The last time these two sides played was on JEF’s last game in the top flight in December 2009.

Tomokazu Myojin will make his 300th appearance for Gamba if he gets some playing time on Sunday whilst former Gamba captain and club legend Satoshi Yamaguchi will be returning to Banpaku for the first time since that winter of change and destruction in 2011/2012. He captained the club to their only J.League crown in 2005 and will surely be welcomed back warmly.

JEF are simply a mixed-bag of a team who struggle to reach their potential, having been stuck in J2 since the 2010 and they have struggled with their “giants” tag and Gamba will do well to get out of this division as soon as possible. They have lost the main man from last season Yoshihito Fujita to Yokohama F.Marinos and replaced him with the pretty average Kempes from the Pigs. This once respectable team is nothing but the butt of all jokes, along with Tokyo Verdy, but they can still challenge the best in the league and Gamba will have to be wary of the challenge ahead. Their biggest problem has been their inability to put the sword to teams when they have been clearly making more chances than them. Their team against Gainare Tottori can be seen to the left.

GAMBA OSAKA v JEF United PredictionGamba’s team selection will be a bit more interesting and fascinating if Hasegawa makes some necessary changes to shake up the team and hopefully it might make them wake up. I would presume that the back five will stay the same but further protection of the still-young relationship between Iwashita and Nishino is a must. There needs to be an actual defending-midfielder alongside the presumed inclusion of Myojin in the team. I suggest that Uchida gets the nod as he needs experience and has been specifically moved to that position this season instead of right-back. I would additionally like to see Hirai take the main striker’s position upfront with Leandro in behind him, forcing Ienaga to fall to the bench after two dismal performances thus far. I keep saying it, but Leandro prefers an actual striking partner – he misses Akihiro Sato, and so do I. This will be my predicted team but I am 100% Hasegawa will not agree with me.

With the fire back in his belly, keep an eye out for Leandro. After a slow start to the campaign, what with illness and his isolation up top in the first three games of the season, Leandro seemed pumped and ready for the J2 challenge against Roasso Kumamoto, unlike the rest of his teammates. If we can get more support play around and ahead of him when going forward, we will surely see the Leandro that terrorised the best defences in J1 last season. He can easily be the catalyst for a successful return to J1 in one attempt this season and we might just see him starting to roll through the gears after his fantastic individual display on Wednesday. It was a pleasure to see him battle, and that behaviour needs to infect the rest of the team. Hasegawa needs to, and I hope he will, knock a few heads together soon.

The mystic ball says 2-0 to Gamba Osaka. Going for another clean sheet at home, eh? You bet, and simply because I think JEF are pretty toothless with Kempes as their main striker and I think Hasegawa might just start to tighten up that back line, albeit eventually. We definitely will not lose and we will stretch our unbeaten home run to 10 matches, and we will end our 6 game draw streak. If we get Leandro involved, there will be no stopping us. There are many ‘ifs’ hinging on my prediction but sooner rather than later, all of these will be fixed and we will be promoted. What do you think?

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