For the first day of the month we start with a delicious-looking top 3 clash as we look to entertain, dazzle and hopefully dispatch of the first-time visitors to Banpaku, V-Varen Nagasaki. Although their automatic promotion hopes are all but gone, cementing their top 6 status will be the aim of the game at this 18:00 kick-off, whilst we seek to move one step closer to the title.
We obviously will be looking to make amends for our poor draw against Yokohama FC last weekend as two defensive errors cost us the two goals we conceded in the 2-2 draw at Mitsuzawa. Hiroki Fujiharu will be looking to make it 3 games in a row and Takashi Usami 4 games in a row in terms of consecutive games scored in. Adi Rocha will want to make sure he gets back on the score sheet after missing out for the first time last weekend since joining the club.
V-Varen had a bit of a rough patch during mid-season but have won their last two games in succession and seem to be back on track, albeit beating Yokohama FC and Gainare Tottori 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. Their win at Tottori came from 2 screamers that saw all their goals scored in a second half. Certainly, the team from Kyushu have surprised everyone with how well they have done in their first ever J.League season.
The first ever meeting between these two sides came back on the 10th March 2013 which was V-Varen’s first ever home match. We ran out 3-1 winners that day to record our first win of the season thanks to 2 goals by Shoki Hirai and a lovely effort by Takahiro Futagawa. V-Varen showed us too much respect in the first half but pulled one back through Mizunaga that day and almost killed us in the last 10 minutes. They show signs of promise there and have not looked back since.
We will be looking to extend our unbeaten run at home whilst V-Varen look to tidy up their mis-matched away form. In the 16 games they have played on the road, they have won 6, drew 5 and lost 5. Until their match against Tottori last weekend, they had only ever managed a maximum of 2 goals in any during any of their away ties. This is compounded with just 3 clean sheets away from home all season and except for the in-form Tokushima Vortis, they have only beaten sides that they should be beating given their position. They have failed to score in just 3 away games though.
For Gamba, the team selection should be very similar for us to that of the starting elevens that beat Sapporo and Tottori, if you are asking me. Although he did not play badly against Yokohama FC, I would still drop Tomokazu Myojin for either Abe or Okazaki to allow Endo to get back into his standard central role. Otherwise, change the formation to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Usami and Omori either side of Rocha with Endo behind him. Yasuyuki Konno needs to get his head in the game too, seriously. Nishino needs a strong partner at centre-back to compliment him. As for injured players, Paulinho and Sato are back into training with the rest of the team and might make the bench but the Emperor’s Cup looks more realistic whilst Kurata and Iwashita are still a couple of weeks away. The team I want to see is to the side.
As for V-Varen, they apparently only have midfielder Kohei Yamada out injured after coming off after 25 minutes in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Tokyo Verdy on match day 28. With that in mind, you would expect to see a full strength side play for the visitors in their standard 3-4-3 formation, with the main striker being supported by 2 attacking-midfielders. They do not really have much to lose in this game and I would expect them to have a go and make it a good game. Although they do not score many, they do not concede many either, but a good game is what I am hoping for!
Normally I go for an in-form player to keep your eye on for the upcoming match. For once, I am going for someone who is not in my good books right now, so that can only mean Yasuyuki Konno. Sure, everyone is saying that he is better in midfield but he was bought as a defender, plays as a defender for the national team and has an excellent partner at the back in Takaharu Nishino who leads him. Yet, he keeps giving the opposition easy chances to score by not putting in any sort of a challenge when even Iwashita would do it which has cost us 2 goals in August and a total of 2 points. He is better than that but needs to prove it. I do not want him back in midfield because Uchida is doing excellently there and Konno really needs to start proving himself as a centre-back at Gamba. I do not know whether he can do it or not, but he should be able to!
It is going to be a difficult match and on the face of it, there should not be too many goals in it because V-Varen have the joint-best defence whilst we have the best attack in the league. Despite the defensive mistakes we have been making, I think we will win it 2-0. Nagasaki will get chances to score because we always give the opposition a chance but I do not know whether they will take them or not because of the small number of goals they have scored this season. With Usami in form, I always fancy us to score and we have been getting goals from different players in different positions recently so we have a deadly sting in our attack that teams like Nagasaki might not have. This will be the perfect chance to potentially extend our gap to 3rd with Tokushima and JEF having tricky-looking away days. Do it, Gamba! Move one step closer to our revival!
Photo taken from web.gekisaka.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.