After our 5-0 demolition job of Mito HollyHock last weekend, we take the long trip to Nagano Prefecture to take on Matsumoto Yamaga FC at the Alwin Stadium. The kick-off time is 13:00 local time and with us chasing the title and Yamaga looking to keep their play-off hopes alive, the match should be a spicy one with hopefully both teams giving it all they have got.
Yet Yamaga’s play-off hopes were severely dented last weekend after they lost 2-1 to Fagiano Okayama in the earliest game of the weekend. With other results above them not going their way, they slipped to 5 points behind Kyoto Sanga in 6th and they themselves managed to hold onto 7th place on 48 points as the teams below them also had a bad weekend. They will be looking to make amends and keep the pressure on Sanga by beating a Kansai rival this time out.
As for us, we trotted to a 5-0 win over Mito HollyHock in what was an extremely comfortable day out where we were clinical, precise and more importantly deadly in front of goal. Takashi Usami continued his brilliant goal scoring record by making it 10 goals in 10 games since his return, easing the burden off Rocha’s somewhat slacking shoulders. We kept 1st place and have 70 points, 2 ahead of Vissel Kobe.
The meeting between these two sides earlier in the season should be remembered as the one where Gamba finally won at home at the 9th attempt in the league (in J1 and J2), with an own goal in the 4th minute the difference between the two sides, although both squandered good chances to add to/level the score. We had drawn the previous 8 games, and this was one of those turning points in our season. The relief was evident.
Yamaga have been in excellent form recently which has seen them surge up the table and get within touching distance of that final play-off spot. Disregarding their defeat last weekend to Fagiano Okayama, they had won their previous 4 games in the league, albeit against teams (except JEF) that they should be beating if they are to make it to the play-offs. They only kept one clean sheet in that time, however. Their home form is less impressive, winning just 5 from 16 games. It took them 8 tries to finally win at home this season and have since kept 5 clean sheets, but have only beaten JEF United from the top 6, losing to just Vissel Kobe from that bunch. They have won their last two home matches though, so we shall have to wait and see which Matsumoto Yamaga turns up.
The players that will not be turning up however are goalkeeper Yosuka Nozawa, defender Kazuya Iio and midfielders Kento Tsurumaki and Yoon Sung-Yeul. Nozawa is the second-choice keeper but has been out since round 20, as has Tsurumaki, whilst Iio has not played since round 11 against Avispa Fukuoka. Yoon was last seen on the bench in round 25 against Consadole Sapporo. With all that in mind, they are expected to keep the same starting eleven that lost to Fagiano Okayama. You can see that to the side.
As for Gamba, I cannot see us making any changes to the starting eleven that beat Mito HollyHock last weekend. Akira Kaji is a 50/50 call but I have been told that he should be able to make it and if he does not, Kenta Hoshihara will obviously take his place at right-back as Oh Jae-Suk makes his way back from a slight injury. Rocha has been quiet in recent games and Kawanishi’s goal last weekend might spur him back into life. Paulinho seems to have made the trip to Matsumoto whilst Myojin’s injury is unknown as of yet, or even when he will be back. You cannot possibly change a 5-0 winning team unless there is an injury, so I think the team will stay the same.
He made his return in the Emperor’s Cup two weeks ago and netted last weekend, so my man to watch is Hiroyuki Abe. He goes through these stages of playing well and then having no effect on a game and I really think we need to start seeing some consistency from the lad because I know he has talent and is a great player to have in your team. His goal last weekend was excellently taken and his stamina and determination will be needed against a team like Matsumoto. I am hoping that he improves again this weekend and can justify his selection over the recently good Omori. I am sure he can step up to the mark and give us a defensive soundness and an attacking threat.
The match is going to be a tough one and a draw would not be a bad result if Kobe fail to beat Tokushima Vortis. We will need to be cautious and ensure that Matsumoto do not get the upper hand early on as their excellent support will spur them on, I am sure. If we buckle down and get on with the task, ensuring that we are defensively sound, I can see us getting the win as long as Usami or Rocha is on the ball. I am very much looking forward to this match.
Photo taken from f.image.geki.jp. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.