After our exit from the Emperor’s Cup last weekend at the hands of Omiya Ardija on penalties, we now only have the league campaign to focus on and will be looking to find our first victory in over a month as we entertain 19th placed Kataller Toyama at Banpaku, kick-off time 16:00. With 6 games to go, the results for both teams here on out have more and more significance with neither wanting to drop any valuable points during their quest for revival/survival.
Our league form as of recent has been shocking to say the least, picking up just 1 victory in 6 attempts, that being a 5-0 demolition of Mito HollyHock more than a month ago. We have taken just 5 points in those 6 games, losing 3 of them which is 1 more than we had achieved in the previous 31 games. To say we are in a rut is an understatement and the defeat the Emperor’s Cup compounded it last weekend. Promotion should have been attained by now and we cannot attain the 90 point target that was set at the start of the season.
Toyama sat out last weekend as they had already been eliminated from the Emperor’s Cup, also via a penalty shoot-out. That 2 week break gave them time to reflect on their 2-1 home defeat to Roasso Kumamoto, with goals from Takahashi and Osako putting the visitors ahead with Toyama only being able to pull one goal back through Kim. That defeat left them on 35 points, 7 ahead of bottom placed Gainare Tottori and 4 ahead of FC Gifu in 21st who have a game in-hand.
Looking our team will see Konno and Endo come back into the defence and midfield respectively, with Nishino and Takei most probably making way, although both probably merit a place over Niwa and Uchida to be honest. Looking forward, I want to see Futagawa come in on the left for Hirai which will allow Kurata to join Usami up front, which would be a very exciting partnership to see if it was to happen. Rocha is not great against teams that like to defend and squeeze the space whilst Hirai has been poor. Kawanishi has been recent but lacks a cutting edge in front of goal. As for players returning from injury, Tomokazu Myojin and Akihiro Sato are close to making it back to the team and should be available within the next week or so. My desired team is to the side.
As for Toyama, they are without the suspended midfield duo of Yohei Onishi and Takahiro Kuniyoshi as both picked up their 4th yellow cards of the season against Roasso Kumamoto last time out. This adds to their midfield worries as Daisuke Asahi, Yukihiro Yamase, Ryo Hiraide and Yosuke Yada are all supposed to be out of this one, as are defenders Naoto Yoshii and Tetsuya Funatsu. Their most valuable aspect that could see them take a valuable point back to Toyama has been crippled by bans and injuries so an even tighter, solider and stronger defensive performance will be needed if they are to must anything from this game. Their predicted starting eleven is also to the side.
There is only one man to watch this weekend and that man is Shu Kurata. I was there when he injured himself against Tokushima Vortis back at the end of June and since then his loss, along with the departure of Leandro, has derailed us slightly. Shu made his comeback against Tochigi SC 2 weeks ago and made a classic assist of his but he also spurned the biggest chance in the Emperor’s Cup against Omiya Ardija. He is lacking a bit of match fitness but has shown some aspects of his game that we have come to know and love. Despite missing around 15 matches this league campaign, he will more than likely be our player of the year and it is his determination, desire and cutting-edge that we want to see in these final 6 games to help us get back on course to win the title. Against a probable defensive unit, we will need some of his magic to unlock the door and find a way, but I feel that his first game back at Banpaku since that injury might just be a good one. I hope he can give us something to cheer about in the last 6 games, apart from being crowned champions, of course!
We have to win this game, no ifs, buts or maybes about it. With Vissel Kobe facing a tricky-looking home tie against Matsumoto Yamaga FC, we can definitely sense a return to the top of the table. We have to take the game to Toyama from the first minute until the last and destroy them to vent our anger and show everyone that we are not a beaten side but also to keep Kobe on their toes. With Toyama missing so many players, we have to use this game to get our confidence back. Let’s take them down, destroy their back line and get ourselves back on track! You can do it so come on, Gamba Osaka!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.