With the Kobe defeat well behind us now, we invite lowly ThespaKusatsu Gunma to Banpaku for what should be one of those defensive displays that we have seen week-in, week-out at home. Nonetheless, Leandro and Kurata, along with the rest of the team, should be able to please the partisan crowd at this 16:00 kick-off local time.
Gamba won their game last week 3-2 against Avispa Fukuoka on the road although the score only showed how good Avispa were at shooting from range. Positives for Gamba came in the form of firstly Leandro and Kurata, who linked up well and scored the 3 goals between themselves. Secondly, Paulinho relished his task on the left behind his fellow countryman and put in a stellar performance. Finally, Iwashita might be back on the bench for this game which would mean that only Akihiro Sato will be the only player left on the treatment table, as Myojin made a cameo appearance last weekend.
Thespa on the other hand come into this game in 20th place with just 10 points, 6 of those coming in the first 4 matches that saw the newly renamed team sit unbeaten until they hit 6 defeats in a row. This was followed by scoring 4 goals against Tokushima Vortis before which point they had only scored 3 goals and they backed that result up with a draw and 2 defeats. Worryingly for them, they have picked up just 3 points from a possible 8 games and have scored just 4 goals on the road, with their last away victory coming way back on 2nd September against Matsumoto Yamaga FC in a 2-0 win. This result was the last coming from an 8 match unbeaten run away from home split equally between victories and draws. Having finished in 17th place last season and having 12 points from 14 games but being able to score goals and get clean sheets more often, they certainly have gone backwards this season so far.
Looking at Gamba’s choices and as mentioned previously, there is almost a full roster to choose from. It would be a surprise if Hasegawa decided to mix things up with all the players who started last week deserving their spots for this match. We will need a bit of force going forward if we are going to beat a probable sitting-deep defence. Iwashita might make it back onto the bench but I would not see him being rushed back in, whilst maybe giving Myojin some time on the pitch could be a good idea as Endo and Konno will probably be away for a month with the Japan National Team (if he is picked, of course). Whatever the choices, I would give the same eleven another opportunity to strut their stuff.
As for Thespa, they somehow managed to only name 5 substitutes for their 2-1 defeat against Kyoto Sanga on Sunday but are tipped to make a handful of changes, notably from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1 formation with a narrow-looking midfield, obviously hoping to congest the centre of the pitch. A change in goal with Kita in for Naito and in defence with Segawa out for Hwang Song-Su whilst Endo and Yokoyama are slated to be replaced by Hozaki and Kobayashi in midfield have been the earmarked alterations. With Masuda, Matsumoto and Eder injured, along with just 5 subs named last week, things already look so tough for the visitors.
Paulinho had a great time in his first start of the season, so let’s see how he does this weekend. I have admittedly not been a big fan of Paulinho as he is often selfish without an end product and he has gone down in my estimations since he shaved off his Mohawk but with a disciplined and exciting performance in an unusual and more defensive position last time out (for a striker at least), he showed that he could do a good job whilst adding something to the team. I hope he continues to prove me wrong but I want to see him perform at a high level on a consistent basis. Things would be perfect and therefore topped-off if he just grew back that ridiculous hairstyle!
The match is going to be one of those again with Gamba having to be patient and calm on the ball whilst having a bit more of a threat and bite at the end of a move as we just about got past Gifu whilst Matsumoto fell to an own goal. I will still expect at least a 2-0 win for the home team and perhaps even more if things really get ticking over nicely. We need a convincing win at home to get the fans excited again and to get them back into their seats. I cannot see Gunma scoring at all and the earlier we score the better. We have to keep the pressure on Kobe to keep up with our results at least and with the easier opposition so far being an uphill struggle at home, we will want to make a big statement with a big performance. Let this not be a dream!