After a dreadful run in recent times, we get to travel to the Kumagaya Athletic Stadium to take on J1 side Omiya Ardija who are stuck in the biggest and complex season in J.League history at the moment so this battle between out-of-form sides should be interesting for the neutral. The game kicks-off at 13:00 local time.
Omiya made their way into the 3rd round of the competition by beating Fagiano Okayama NEXT 4-0 at the NACK5 Stadium on the 7th September thanks to a hat-trick from Cho Young-Cheol and a goal by Tomoki Imai. That victory also turned out to be Ardija’s last in all competitions, but we will get onto that later.
We made our way through the 2nd round in relative ease as we swept aside FC Imabari 5-0 at Banpaku, with goals from Hirai, Usami, Niwa and a 2 minute brace from Rocha after being introduced moments beforehand. Since then, we have won just 1 of 4 games having stuttered to 2nd place in the league and seemingly unable to keep clean sheets.
Even though Ardija are J1 opposition, their form is absolutely terrible. They have won 3 of their last 15 games in all competitions and have lost the rest, failing to score in 3 of their last 4 league matches whilst conceding a total of 12 goals. Their shocking form is in stark contrast to their early season form when they were clear at the top of the table and seemingly on route to an unlikely title or at least an ACL spot. With the sacking of manager Verdenik after a run of 5 defeats, the club seemingly panicked and replaced him with Tsutomu Ogura but with no effect. The club have since fallen down to 10th place in J1 and are on course for their regular 13th/14th place.
Their last league game saw them lose to Urawa Reds 4-0 and they had two men sent off; Lucas Niell and Tomoki Imai. The former is on international duty with Australia so would have missed this game anyway. Their other players on international duty are Slovenian striking due Zlatan and Novakovic which leaves a massive gap in their forward line. Additionally, midfielders Takuya Aoki and Shin Kanazawa are injured which really does leave them short of first choice players. Therefore, I cannot really predict their line-up and will give you the team that started against Fagiano Okayama NEXT.
With Endo and Konno on national duty, we will be forced to make two changes. The good thing about that is Nishino will return to the heart of the defence and give us our leader back! As for replacing Endo, whether Myojin is fit or not, I do not know. So I think that if he is not fit, Okazaki will partner Uchida in central midfield. As for going forward, I think Futagawa should be fit for this match and I would like him to play on the left with Kurata in the middle, Omori on the right with Usami as our striker. It is plausible that Rocha will partner Usami up top and Kurata will shift to the left. As for goalkeepers, I want Kimura in goal as Fujigaya has been very poor recently and it is time to see if Kimura has got what it takes to replace him as he showed last season that he could until he got injured.
Most people expect Gamba to win this match and so do I but we have to be careful of our expectations simply because of our form. However, with Nishino presumably back in defence and Kurata slowly getting back up to speed, we should be safe as long as Usami can take his chances more often that he has been doing recently. It will be a good chance to give some players some minutes on the pitch but as everyone at Gamba is aiming for the ACL, there is a time and a place for a lot of tinkering. Whoever wins this match will go past the end of the league season and hope to reach glory at Kokuritsu.