Us fans will be looking for the team to bounce back in style after their poor defeat to Vissel Kobe on Monday which saw us fall down to 3rd place and 6 points behind leaders Vissel Kobe. This trip to Kyushu is against the decent Avispa Fukuoka and will take place at 13:00 local time at the Level-5 Stadium.
The hosts come into the game after an efficient 1-0 away win against this season’s surprise-strugglers-who-should-be-challenging-for-a-play-off-place Yokohama FC thanks to a first half goal from defender Tsutsumi. They held onto their lead to get all 3 points after a siege against their goal towards the end of the match. This put the side into 9th place and just 2 points outside of the play-off places which is a stark contrast to their abysmal 2012 season, finishing in 18th place.
Looking at their recent form, they have picked up 8 points in their last 5 games including a credible draw at home to leaders Kobe. In these last 5 games, there have been a total of just 5 goals, with Avispa picking up 3 clean sheets – none of the teams have scored more than 1 goal in any of these games – leading to a total of 21 goals in their first 13 games of the season. Their home form is quite concerning though as they have only won 2 of these games out of 7, losing 3. What we can see from this is that they are a bit of yo-yo team who keep things compact at the back and find it generally difficult to score. We will have to be patient as usual, you would think.
The defeat last weekend was the first defeat of the season and the first league defeat since that fateful day in December which saw us get relegated from J1. That was just our 6th defeat in 36 matches in all competitions with a hell of a lot of draws but surprisingly more wins. We will want to see some character from the players and a bit more fight from them if they are to take the 3 points away from Fukuoka.
When Avispa have played at home against Gamba in the league, they have historically had the upper hand in those 8 home games, winning 4 and losing 3, scoring a total of 10 goals compared to Gamba’s 9. The first 3 trips to Fukuoka for Gamba ended in a 1-0 defeat, then a 1-0 win, and finally another 1-0 loss. The last trip to the Level-5 Stadium for our boys in Black & Blue ended in a 3-2 victory, with Adriano, Usami and Futagawa netting the goals either side of the hosts scoring who had Daiki Niwa in their defence that day, having been sent on loan by Gamba. Gamba have 6 starting players and 4 from the bench that day still part of the first-team. They will need that experience to overcome a difficult-looking opponent.
Avispa apparently only have one player who will definitely be missing this match in the form of striker Masakazu Kihara. According to some Japanese football websites, changes will be expected from the team that played against Yokohama FC on Monday, with that line-up to the top-right. Park is highlighted to make way for Miyamoto, who will go into the right-back position whilst Tsutsumi slots in Park’s empty centre-back space. Nishida and Funayama are slated to vacate their places for Kanakubo and the versatile Jogo in midfield whilst Osmar will be replaced by Sakada up top. All this is pure speculation and with that many changes made, it would seem unlikely but some of the changes may be realistic so you might as well know about them.
As for Gamba, the injury list seems to be clearing up with only Akihiro Sato and Keisuke Iwashita the ones who will miss this match, although I assume Omori is (still) injured as he has not been mentioned even in training matches (with the limited information you get from them). Paulinho did play in last week’s training match so he should be good for a first team return if Hasegawa sees it fit to do so. Changes will be expected with Ienaga the preferred to choice to make way for Futagawa, whilst Abe should keep his place but I’d prefer to see him shifted to the wing as Kurata does a better job at supporting Leandro, who will have to be wary of his performances with Hirai pushing for just his second start of the season. Oh Jae-Suk impressed in the 15 minutes or so that he had against Kobe but I would still expect Kaji and the back four to remain the same. Myojin was on the bench on Monday and I could see him taking Uchida’s position next to Endo after Uchida’s shocker on Monday, but it would be nice to see some confidence placed in him. The squad is in a healthy state and I really want to see the team go at it from the first minute, whoever is chosen. My prediction is also to the right.
With the trip to Fukuoka being a difficult-looking one, we are going to need experienced players to help us through it, so keep your eyes on Yasuhito Endo this weekend. He has been the best player throughout Golden Week and really stepped-up against Gifu especially but he did attempt to drag the team along against Kobe to no avail. He has realty started to get into the groove and this will help go a long way to overcoming this obstacle. It would be nice for him to be even more apparent in his play and really control the match which will more than help us to getting back on track and as captain I will expect nothing less from him. You can do it ヤットさん!
There are no doubts that Avispa will be up for the fight and can take good heart from their superb performance against Vissel Kobe in their last home match. Their problem is their home form and I can see Gamba sneaking a 2-1 away win, even if the hosts do put up a good battle. They have certainly recovered from their hangover from last season and look a strong team that could make the play-offs, but I do not see Hasegawa being happy with another poor performance after holding a “reflection meeting” during the week and refocusing the players. Let’s hope it worked and that the players show some character this weekend.