The final midweek round of the season sees us head north-west to the coastal city to take on relegation-threatened Gainare Tottori at the Torigin Bird Stadium in what will be the last game to kick off in the round with a 19:30 kick-off time. The stadium should be full as we look to keep our lead to at least 7 points whilst Tottori look to move away from the relegation places.
Our hosts for the evening come into this game on the back of a 1-1 away draw against Tochigi SC in what was their first match under new manager Koji Maeda following the dismissal of Norio Omura. His sacking came after just 3 wins in 14 games, losing half of them as his side took just 1 point off any of their closest rivals down at the bottom of the table in that period. The final straw came when Omura’s side lost 3-2 at home to Kataller Toyama.
The side currently sit in 21st place and have not won a game since getting a shock 3-2 victory against Montedio Yamagata on the 3rd July. Their last home win was at the start of June as Gainare overcame Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0. This is just one of two home victories all season, the other a 3-1 defeat of Mito HollyHock all the way back on the 17th March. After round 5 they sat in 2nd place on 9 points and have since taken 22 points in 24 games.
The first meeting between Gainare and Gamba came at the end of April as we clawed back from 1-0 down to draw 1-1 in a game that saw us unable to break down a stubborn Gainare defence and they should have made it 2-0 right before Leandro equalised after a swift counter attack. A similar game plan is very much expected by the hosts.
As it is a midweek game, the team selection for both teams might be a bit different to what we are used to seeing with one eye on the weekend fixtures. If we start with Tottori though, then we can see that they have one man suspended and that is defender Eiichiro Ozaki. To add to their defensive worries, they have both Kenta Togawa and Eijiro Takeda scheduled to miss this match through injuries. It gets even tougher in midfield with Tomoyuki Yoshino, Toshitaka Tsurumi and Yasuhiro Okuyama all supposedly out of this match. This means a bit of shuffling around and therefore their predicted team could be very wrong, but hey ho I never get it right!
Talking about not getting it right, I am expecting a few changes for Gamba’s starting eleven from the one that started against Consadole Sapporo on the weekend. The first would be giving Akira Kaji a rest at right-back with Oh Jae-Suk getting a chance to strut his stuff. I would then assume that Myojin and Futagawa will come into midfield to freshen things up whilst adding a bit of experience to the fold. Kenya Okazaki would be the first player to drop to the bench but if I were the manager, I would also drop Endo to the bench. Put it this way, he has already played 3 games in 8 days and could make it 5 in 15 days if he plays in this match and on the weekend. He needs to take some rest to avoid burning out against Yokohama FC. I would take the chance and put him on the bench for this match, although it would be no surprise to see him start. Konno has the same situation except that he has not been playing in midfield so has had less work to do. Other than that, the other starting eleven and squad members would probably stay the same as Sato and Kurata are now scheduled back next month.
With a weeknight match, it is tough to select a player to watch. But when you have a front man in form, Adi Rocha should start and will be looking to continue his fine goal scoring streak. He had his legged strapped up after the match on Sunday but I assume that was a precaution as to allow him to play against Tottori. He has been fantastic since he joined the club and has got off to a similar start as Leandro did last year. Interestingly, Rocha has netted 4 of his 5 goals with his head so far and has taken just 13 attempts to get those 5 goals. He has linked well with Usami and Omori and should be a big threat to Tottori aerially and with the ball at his feet, which people sometimes forget. I am expecting more of the same from our new number 9 and Tottori will do well to stop him.
This game hinges on whether or not we can get an early goal or two to open up the game and force Tottori to attack us. If we fail to do that, I can see it being a hard earned 2-0 score line. I think it will be a lot worse for the hosts though and can see the game being 4-0 at least. They are in a real slump at the moment having conceded 22 goals at home against mostly teams outside the top 6, so I can see them struggling again. As long as we are patient, move the ball as well as we now the team can and use our other strengths, it might just be a very long night for Tottori. They have also failed to score in half of their home games whilst we have scored in every away game bar two (which are the only two games we have lost). A long night ahead for Gainare, I believe.
Photo taken from sanspo. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.