The first half of the season is done and it sees both of these sides at opposite ends of the table as Gamba lead J2 whilst FC Gifu sit right at the bottom of the pile in this battle between first and last. This is the second Gamba match that I will be going to and it takes place at the Nagaragawa Stadium with a kick-off time of 19:00.
FC Gifu come into this game on the back of a 3-1 victory over what seemed to be an improving Giravanz Kitakyushu, also played at the Nagaragawa Stadium, with goals from youngster Mizuno and a brace from in-form Someya. Goalkeeper Tokihisa also saved his 5th penalty of the season after facing his 7th. Gamba of course beat Tokushima Vortis at Banpaku on Saturday to keep their lead at the top of the division to 2 points over rivals Vissel Kobe. Paulinho inspired the victory with a goal and an assist with a Gamba side that misses Leandro, Ienaga, Endo and Konno. Talk about adaptability.
Talking about 2-0 victories, the first meeting between these two sides at the start of May ended in a 2-0 win for Gamba with goals from Hiroyuki Abe and Shoki Hirai. Gifu could have conceded more goals if it had not been for defender Desmond, who had a belter of a game.
Although Gifu are bottom of the table, they come into this game on some very good form having picked up 10 of their 17 points in their last 5 games which included 3 wins and a draw. The run started with a draw against Okayama, followed by a last-minute winner against Nagasaki, a stunning 4-3 away win against Tottori, then a 4-0 battering at the hands of Sapporo and then that mentioned 3-1 home victory over Kitakyushu. These last 5 games have produced 18 goals split equally between Gifu and their opponents. They have only kept one clean sheet in that time and 4 in total this season, all coming from 0-0 draws. There has been nothing but entertainment recently from Gifu and they should be very confident right now. But so should we!
Their injury and suspension list is something not to be desired however. Their defensive rock Desmond, who just got back from Italy for personal reasons, was booked in the win on the weekend and is therefore suspended for this match – what a massive loss. They also have six reputed injuries – defenders Shuto Tanaka and Hiroshi Sekita, midfielders Ri Han-Jae and Hidemi Jinushizono and strikers Taira Inoue and Fabio. Only Desmond will miss out from the team that played on the weekend which you can see to the side.
As for Gamba, Akihiro Sato is probably not ready yet. Shu Kurata’s injury puts him out for around 8 weeks and he could be a massive loss if we did not have such a strong team. His loss could be covered by Abe, Paulinho or Endo, with the latter along with Konno, potentially making a return in this match. Personally, I would play Endo in the advanced role as he used to do so well in whilst keeping Paulinho out on the right. As for the return of Konno, I would prefer to see him back into the midfield alongside Uchida. That is not to say that Hasegawa will not put him back into defence, but then the question of who he replaces would arise, with Niwa in great form whilst Iwashita needs games whilst not forgetting young Nishino. If that was to happen though, Endo would be dropped back into his standard role and you would expect Abe to get the starting position either out on the right or behind Hirai. All these changes would see Myojin finally drop to the bench, at least! My desired team is to your side though!
Keisuke Iwashita returned to the starting eleven on Saturday and will be my man to watch on Wednesday. He had a solid game next to Niwa but did look like he was lacking a bit of sharpness next to his defensive partner. This will obviously take time but as a favourite of the fans, I am sure they will be eager to see him continue in the starting eleven. He looked very strong before his injury against Tottori and had scored 2 goals in that time. Game by game, I am hoping to see him get back to that level and beyond it and against an in-form FC Gifu side, he might be tested on those points. Good luck, Keisuke!
Even with FC Gifu at full speed recently, we must not forget their 4-0 humbling against Consadole Sapporo. All those injuries have forced them to be a bit more attacking and open at the back and without Desmond, they could struggle once more. Sure, we do not have Leandro anymore but in Shoki Hirai we have someone who scores goals. Therefore, a 3-0 away win is what I am going for for the midweek match. I do expect Gifu to give the probably full Nagaragawa Stadium their absolute best but with a shrinking squad, this game might just catch up with them. In the games they have won recently, they have had to go for it and done it well but this game might see them try to stifle us and counter attack as it is just too risky for them to be so open. We might well have to be patient but I always fancy us to score and if we get an early one, Gifu could be in trouble. But in Japanese football, sometimes you have to expect the unexpected.
Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.