On the back of our win last weekend in Niigata, Gamba travel even further north to Sendai to take on Vegalta at the Yurtec Stadium, with the kick-off at 17:00 JST. Both teams come into this game with different expectations to those of 2012 when Vegalta were close to the title whilst we fell down the J1 trap door.
Vegalta have yet to register a point this season after losing their two games thus far under new manager Graham Arnold, having been defeated by Albirex Niigata and Kashima Antlers home and away respectively, shipping 4 goals and scoring just 1.
Gamba have not won in the last two meetings between the sides, having drawn the home match 1-1 and losing the away game 2-1, albeit controversially down to poor refereeing, and our goal only coming in the final moments as a clear consolation from Paulinho.
There has not been much in the way of injuries this week for Gamba, with only Endo having a slight knock but he should be fine to face Sendai, although he will probably sit out the midweek game with Vissel Kobe in the Nabisco Cup. Abe has been part of the last two training matches so he might be knocking on the door for a place on the bench.
I cannot say that any changes should be made to a winning side and this will come as a blow for Kotaro Omori who has been excellent in his two cameo appearances from the bench. He would probably be the only one who could force his way into the team but that would have to be at the expense of Koki Yonekura who had a decent game last weekend. Many fans have been calling for Lins to replace Sato up front but I entirely disagree; Sato was getting into good positions last weekend but his finishing let him down. We have to remember that that was just his third starting appearance since his return from a year-long injury, so patience must be given to him because doing otherwise would be first unfair and second would knock his confidence. The goals will come – just remember how good he was in 2012 despite various little knocks.
Gamba will be up against former players Takuya Takei and Hayato Sasaki this weekend after both took the move north but have yet to have an impact in their first and second seasons at the club respectively. Yasuyuki Konno returns to his home prefecture and will be looking for a win this time round.
This game comes 4 days after the 3rd anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake that devastated the region in 2011 and one would expect the home fans to put on some event to show their remembrance. The stadium is going to be full of pure emotion in the stands and hopefully pure passion on the pitch.
The expectation this weekend will be to have a continuation of the effort from last weekend with a bit more control in the midfield and a greater cutting edge up front. It is going to be a tough game but I am sure that with the same work ethic, we can take all 3 points, especially as it seems like a good time to take on Vegalta given their change in manager. Iwashita and Niwa will have to be strong again and do nothing silly whilst Sato will need to take his chances this weekend. A defeat would be a step in the wrong direct and every little helps on the road – with the confidence from the win over Niigata, we should be taking another step forward.