With the title within our grasps, the final home match of the season in front of what is expected to be a near-full house (except for the away section), our players will be looking to sign-off at Banpaku in style by lifting the J2 trophy but in our way stands Montedio Yamagata who still have a faint hope of getting into the play-off places. Anything but a win would end their hopes to get there so they will be going full pelt at it, I expect.
Gamba stroll into this after a solid defensive display lent itself for probably the first time ever, allowing us to pick off Kyoto Sanga 2-0 with rather consummate ease. Yasuyuki Konno belted home to give us a deserved lead whilst Kotaro Omori netted his first-ever professional goal to seal the tie late on.
Yamagata kept their play-off hopes alive by beating Matsumoto Yamaga FC on the road in a thrilling 3-2 win. They fell behind to a goal from Yamaga keeper Murayama but hit back with Okubo’s first professional goal, then Miyasaka put the visitors ahead with 10 minutes remaining. Nagasawa equalised immediately for the hosts and just a minute later, Nishikawa was sent-off for Yamagata, who got a penalty in the final minute of added time which was duly converted by Okubo to steal the win.
The match between Gamba and Yamagata ended in a 1-0 win to us as Keisuke Iwashita headed home from a short corner taken by Endo. Leandro and Fujiharu missed notable good chances that were almost punished by Romero Frank hitting the bar towards the end of the match but we held on to take a good win.
Montedio’s form throughout the whole season has been patchy to say the least and they have never been on a good run of form, neither a particularly terrible one either, meaning that they have been stuck around mid-table all season. Their away form is particularly worrying, winning just 2 out of the last 9, drawing 5 and losing 2. They have won just 6 away games all season and last kept a clean sheet back on the 19th May, battering Gainare Tottori 6-0 – their only away clean sheet in 2013.
Gamba will be without captain Endo for this match, as well as Yasuyuki Konno, freeing up two spaces in the starting eleven. One would imagine that either Takei or Okazaki will come in for Konno (probably the former) whilst Akihiro Sato will bag his first start in over a year to replace Endo. Omori might just take back his starting berth in place of Futagawa, which I would like to see. Iwashita may make the bench as he finally comes back from injury but apart from that, there should not be too many changes.
As mentioned earlier, Shogo Nishikawa was sent-off last weekend and is suspended, joined by striker Yuki Nakashima after he picked up his 4th booking of the season. Defender Ryo Kobayashi and striker Ryohei Hayashi are both injured and will not make the long trip to Banpaku. Their predicted starting eleven is to your side.
With Endo relinquishing his spot in order to join the national team, Akihiro Sato will get his first start in over a year and my God it has been a long time. He last started a league match against Kawasaki Frontale on the 20th October 2012, the same day he got his first injury that put him out for a year. It has been a long time in coming but he showed against Roasso with his goal and against Kyoto with his hold-up play what a great player he is. We have certainly missed his presence all season – not just his goals, but more importantly his work ethic, ability to link play and be a general menace to all defences. He is definitely liked by Hasegawa and is ahead of Rocha in the pecking order but will want to stake a claim for next season. I am sure he can show us from the start what he can do, and I cannot wait!
We should win this game quite easily. Montedio have no choice but to go for it tomorrow with their play-off predicament. If we defend as well as we did last week, we will easily carve open a rather loose opposition. Sure, they will have a few chances themselves considering the way they will have to play but I see no problems – unless Fujigaya wants to hurt us all. Becoming Champions at home will be great and we will want to sign off in style, so let’s do it!
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Site. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.