As we enter the final third of the season, we welcome Consadole Sapporo to Banpaku for a local time kick-off of 18:00. The jointly relegated sides have had pretty decent seasons in their own regards and the contest should be a good one with both teams coming into the match with home wins in the previous round.
We come into this came having beaten Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 thanks to a Kotaro Omori inspired performance which saw the lad set-up Rocha’s first home goal whilst working his socks off for the 70 minutes he was on the pitch. Consadole come into this game having won 2-0 at home to Yokohama FC with goals from first-time goal scorer Ferro and a late goal from Mikami that wrapped up the points.
If we take a peek at Sapporo’s away form, we can see that they have played 15 games and drawn just once whilst splitting the rest between wins and draws. They have scored 19 and conceded 18 in those 15 matches. Added to our home form of 7 wins and 7 draws from 14 games, we can see that the odds would favour a Gamba win if Sapporo have it their way, in terms of stats. If we have it our way, we will not lose. Anything after that is possible.
The meeting earlier this season went our way. After a dodgy start where we took just 1 win and 4 draws, we deservedly took all 3 points away from the Dome for the second season running as a Shu Kurata inspired performance saw Leandro, Ienaga and Iwashita net in a 3-1 win. None of those players can play in the reverse fixture. The last meeting at Banpaku also went our way as Leandro netted a hat-trick and Ienaga got his first goal on his return to Gamba (and ironically his last was that one against Sapporo earlier in the season), as well as goals from Akihiro Sato, Konno and an own-goal resulted in a 7-2 home win. It would be surprising if such a result returned this time out.
You would believe that our team will not change, or change very little, from the team that started last weekend. If we look at the injured players, then we can see that Sato and Abe have stepped-up their training this week by joining in with the main squad whilst Paulinho and Iwashita stick to just running. Kurata is still down to simply training exercises but does do the odd running. In that regard, there is not much that can be changed really, except for the fact that Akihiro Sato will make the bench if news reports are to believed, with the striker available for about 15 minutes if needed, which is absolutely excellent news. Endo and Konno played the full 90 minutes for Japan in their 4-2 loss to Uruguay but will be expected to slot back into the first team having 4 days to prepare for this match. There are slight doubts about Rocha after training alone on Friday and he might end up on the bench. However, I expect the same 11 to start from last weekend’s 11.
Consadole come with just 2 players reportedly injured with midfielders Ryuji Kawai and Hiroyuki Furata supposedly unable to make the trip. All eyes will be on whether new signing Le Cong Vinh gets his debut or not. Most reports suggest that the Vietnamese star will probably make the bench but it would not be surprising if he does make it onto the pitch at some point. Another player people will be taking about is striker Ferro, but only because of his 197cm stature. We might see a couple of changes from the team that won last weekend but I feel Le Cong Vinh will have to watch from the sidelines at the start. Sapporo’s predicted team is to the side.
I think it comes as no surprise that with Takaharu Nishino returning to the back four meant we kept a clean sheet last weekend, so he will be my man to watch this weekend. The defence was a bit jittery last weekend and in Okayama, Konno was the weak link but Nishino really does know how to get clean sheets and it was no surprise to see us get one within 2 games of his return to the defence. His exclusion was baffling at best with Niwa and Iwashita an erratic pairing to say the least. Takaharu is the leader we need in defence and he will do well to keep Konno from wandering away from his duties. I honestly believe Nishino is the best centre back we have and with Ferro (and his height) and potentially Le Cong Vinh to deal with, Takaharu’s influence will be a huge influence on whether we take all 3 points or not. I am sure he can help us towards that goal.
Having mentioned the home and away form of both teams, I can only see those figures pointing in one direction. I am keeping to my streak of predicting a Gamba win and I will call a 3-0 win, just like I did for the reserve fixture. I hope Hasegawa was happy with the win but not the performance last week and I hope he will get the players firing on all cylinders. We have players in form like Rocha and Omori so we need them to get the ball running but with Usami and Uchida also putting in good performances, things do look positive. The key will be whether Sapporo come and play, which I assume they will, and whether we can keep them from scoring. But I think the gulf between the teams is too big and a somewhat comfortable home win should be on the cards.