With the wind firmly in our sails with after a 3-0 win over Tochigi SC at Banpaku, Gamba now head on down to Kyushu for the final time this season to take on struggling Giravanz of said Kyushu at the Honjo Stadium for an 18:00 local time kick-off. There is a chance for us to stack 5 wins for the first time this season!
The hosts Giravanz come into this match on cloud nine after getting their first win after a 10 match winless streak since a 1-0 victory over Ehime FC on the 7th April. That was also their only home win of the season. Their victims came in the form of our big rivals Kyoto Sanga FC, who took a 1-0 lead against the 20th placed side at home, only to concede twice in the second half on Monday to lose for the 4th time this season at home. Giravanz nailed Kyoto’s coffin in the 89th minute of the match from a counter attack which sent their small pocket of supports berserk.
Giravanz and Gamba have both been undefeated since 6th May after respective losses to Consadole Sapporo and Vissel Kobe. It is Gamba who have won all their games since then, whilst Giravanz have won 1 and drew 3. Their season has been a tale of woe since their previous manager Yasutoshi Miura joined Tokyo Verdy over the winter and took with him 8 Giravanz players, although 2 have been sent away on loans. These moves have ripped the soul and taken the heart out of Giravanz who now lurk near the bottom of the table, 3 points above the drop zone, and are a completely different outfit compared to the one that finished 9th last season. 23 players have moved on whilst 19 have come in. Only 6 of the entire 2012 squad remain and they hold just 150 appearances for the 2012 season, at Giravanz, between them. With a team with just 10 players over the age of 25, you can see the difficulties the team has had in terms of experience and adjustment. It has been a tough tough time for Giravanz.
Nevertheless, they beat Kyoto Sanga on Monday and seemed very happy and confident in that match. They played some nice football and looked like they deserved the win based on the 2nd half that I saw. Their biggest problem has been their home form, having only taken 5 points from a possible 24, compared to 9 from 27 on the road. Neither is very impressive, nor is the fact they have scored only 6 goals at home this season and they have yet to net 2 goals in any home match. Furthermore, they have kept just 1 clean sheet at home all season, conceding 12. They have yet to concede more than 2 at home this season but none of the leaders of the league at this point of the season have yet to tackle them in Kyushu. They have only conceded more than 2 goals once this season, being trounced by JEF United Chiba 6-1. They are fairly tight at the back in that respect, but scoring 3 against them would almost guarantee victory.
Looking at injuries/suspensions for both teams, then it is as easy as anything to detail it. Apparently Giravanz have no injuries or bans and have a free pick of players, it seems. As for Gamba, we already know that Konno and Endo have extended their stay with the Japan National Team until at least the Tokushima Vortis match at the end of the month, whilst Keisuke Iwashita and Akihiro Sato are still not yet ready it seems. There has been no news on why Iwashita has not made it back yet, whilst Sato is getting there, step by step. Therefore, I would expect the same 11 that started against Tochigi SC.
Kenya Okazaki had a brilliant game last weekend in his first start as a professional and it will be interesting to see whether he can keep that going. That is why he is my man to watch for this match. He, Niwa and Uchida did great to fill the boots of Konno, Endo and Myojin (if we compare them to last season’s 3 starters in those positions) and this will be Kenya’s first away match as a starter (I presume that Hasegawa will play him). He showed a level head last week and was not afraid to play football against one of the better teams in the division and I am sure he will get more confidence as he continues to play. Kenta Hasegawa shocked most people with Okazaki’s inclusion over Myojin, but Kenya rightly showed us why he was picked and I am sure he can do it again against Giravanz.
The statistics may say that we should only score only 2 goals and that Giravanz might score 1, but their home games have been against easier opposition in the league. They might be riding high after their victory against Kyoto but I can see them crashing down to a 3-0 away victory for Gamba this weekend. Leandro, Kurata, Ienaga and Futagawa should squash them down whilst our first clean sheet for 5 games was a welcome return. We should simply have too much for Giravanz but they will make it hard for us and will be strong on the counter attack, if we are not disciplined enough. Nonetheless, it is hard to see anything but a Gamba win and I am sure the boys will continue on good form without Endo and Konno. I have good confidence right now, so why shouldn’t the players?!
Photo taken from stat.ameba.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.