The first trip of the season to Shikoku is next on the away day schedule as Gamba look to get 3 wins in a row as they head to the land of the mikan as they are hosted by the orange-clad Ehime FC at the superbly named Ninjineer Stadium. The match will be last of Round 16 of J2 match day with a kick-off time of 19:30 local time.
The hosts come into this game on the back of a 4-2 thumping defeat, at home, against table-toppers Vissel Kobe with the away team having a 1-0 lead that lasted until the 70th minute, with 5 goals coming in the last 20 minutes which saw Ehime concede, score, then concede twice more that all but killed the game, with Kobe’s 4th being gift-wrapped by the defence. They did get a strange penalty which was dispatched but it was too little too late for them.
They currently sit in 15th place and will probably end-up in a position in the same nothing-to-play-for vain. Their current home form is not that great either, with the first two games being drawn, followed by 5 games alternating in defeats and wins. Those last 5 games have seen the other top 6 sides bar JEF go to the Ningineer Stadium with all but Tochigi SC picking up the 3 necessary points. With Gamba’s away record, we could certainly see them adding to the top 6’s victories over Ehime in Ehime.
We all know that Gamba come into this match on a 5-1 home win against ThespaKusatsu Gunma as well as an impressive away win against Avispa Fukuoka. Spirits could not be higher in the Blue and Black camp and the aim will be nothing less than 3 points.
Looking at the teams, firstly Ehime, we can have a crack at predicting the teams for both sides. Ehime played a 3-4-2-1 formation against Kobe last weekend, just like Thespa did against us, and they look set to keep it. They have 4 confirmed players injured for this game to take into account as Alain (DF) as well as Ito, Watanabe and Higashi (MF) are all ruled out. Nonetheless, they are expected to change Sonoda for Dai at the back and that is all. Despite losing, they will keep practically the same team, which cannot be said about our last few opponents.
As for Gamba, Konno and Endo will make their last appearance before heading off with the national team to play Bulgaria in the Kirin Cup and then Australia to finally confirm their qualification for the World Cup. This could be the start of a whole month without the pair if they are selected for the Confederations’ Cup in Brazil. This aside, we will probably see the team that has been chosen for the last 2 games, and rightly so. There may be a temptation to start Myojin instead of Uchida to get him up to speed for the next game against Tochigi and this would not surprise me one bit, but I would like to see the youngster continue to grow next to Endo. Additionally, Keisuke Iwashita could be back on the bench, you would hope, as he will need to be ready to cover for Konno’s absence from next week. These are good problems in selection for Hasegawa, but the same team should be kept together.
I think (and I could well be wrong) that the only player that I have not told you to watch so far this season who remains in this starting eleven is Takahiro Futagawa, who got 3 assists last weekend and will be looking to add to those and his solitary goal for the season. He is the level-headed player in the midst of the front 4 and showed that with a superb display last weekend which got him his hat-trick of assists. His combination with the other 3 of Paulinho, Kurata and Leandro is brilliant and he is calm, composed but very deadly. If he hits the same form again this weekend, Ehime will certainly be in for a very very long night. He will more than likely have less time than every other player to do his job as Abe will inevitably be subbed in for him but Takahiro has been a pleasure to watch recently. More of the same please!
This weekend brings the same expectations of a Gamba win as last weekend did and I have to expect the same. We have had difficulty in keeping clean sheets recently but have made up for that with the goals. We have handed over more possession as a way to give us more space when we attack and if the forward 4 turn up for some more fun, I expect a 3-0 Gamba Osaka win. Ehime will certainly give it a shot as they did against Kobe as they have nothing to lose but these tactics will go in our favour, there are no doubts about that. Their top scorer and assister is striker Ishii but he has been played away from the centre forward position that takes away from an imminent threat up top. I fancy us to keep a clean sheet but even if we do not, we will score plenty to make up for it. I just cannot expect anything else, I really can’t. What about you?