We get a break from the league action this weekend as our focus turns to the Emperor’s Cup as we start on our road to win the cup and go one better than last year. Our revenge starts at Banpaku at 15:00 local time as we welcome along Shikoku League leaders FC Imabari, as well as their rather famous mascot Bari-san.
The visitors made it into the second round following a comprehensive 9-1 win over Kumamoto Gakuen University last weekend. Their opponents were down to 10 men from the 16th minute onwards with Imabari leading 1-0 at the time thanks to a goal from midfielder Takada. They made it 3-0 with goals in the 17th and 21st minutes respectively thanks to midfielders Matsuhira and Ogasawara, whilst Kumamoto pulled a goal back in the 40th minute through Furuya. Imabari regained the 3 goal lead just 4 minutes later however through striker Okamoto. The second half was completely controlled by Imabari as an own goal, a header from defender Saito and a goal from substitute Nakajima made it 7-1 by the 74th minute. The game ended with Ogasawara and Nakajima netting their braces to complete the rout and send the university students packing. You can see the starting eleven for FC Imabari from that match to your side.
This is Gamba’s first match of the tournament as they automatically qualify to the second round as they play in the J.League. The team selection for this match should see all the guys who have not been getting match time or a limited amount of it to get a run out and try to impress Kenta Hasegawa. I am not sure if Oh Jae-Suk is injured or not having been dropped from the bench last weekend and not being at training, whilst this game is too soon for Keisuke Iwashita and Shu Kurata. The news for Akihiro Sato gets worse as I have been told he has suffered a setback this week from his 11 month layoff and looks like to be out for even more time. This is a great time to give players returning from recent injuries 45 minutes or so whilst keeping everyone fresh. My predicted team is to the side, but Paulinho could so easily come in for either of the wingers or one of the strikers.
I do not think we should expect a shock in this match, although FC Imabari did beat eventual J1 champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the same stage last season, edging their match 2-1. They were beaten in the next round by FC Machida Zelvia 5-2, who went on to lose to us 3-2 just a round later. This run for Imabari was their best to date, having featured in this tournament for the last 4 years.
Gamba made it all the way to the final last year despite being relegated from J1 just weeks before hand. We started with a 3-0 over Kansai University, then a 1-0 win over Mito HollyHock and a 3-2 win over Machida Zelvia. In the quarter finals, we edged the Osaka derby 2-1 against Cerezo and we followed that up with a 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers in the semi-finals which saw us head to Kokuritsu on New Years’ Day to face Kashiwa Reysol. But it was not to be as some slack marking by Daiki Niwa from a corner allowed the team in yellow to triumph 1-0 that day with a Kudo header. We will be looking to go that one step further this year.
The winner of this match will go on to face the winner of the tie between Omiya Arija of J1 or Fagiano Okayama NEXT. The adventure starts here boys, so let’s do it!
Photo taken from FC Imabari’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.