The second round of Nabisco Cup games see us travel to Shizuoka to take on fellow J.League strugglers Shimizu S-Pulse at Nihondaira with a kick-off time of 19:00 JST. This will be an odd occasion for manager Kenta Hasegawa with the game being his first return to the club since managing them back in 2010.
Whilst both teams sit in 16th and 14th on 4 and 5 points respectively, they both got off to a great start in the cup, Shimizu picking up a simple-looking 4-0 win over Vegalta Sendai whilst Gamba claimed maximum points with an impressive 2-0 win over Kansai rivals Vissel Kobe.
The last two meeting between these two sides came in J1 and Gamba took maximum points from those games, both 3-1 wins. The home win came thanks to goals from Takei, Rafinha and Sato whilst the away win saw a lovely brace from Kurata and a Leandro super header. The last time the sides met in the Nabisco Cup came in 2008 when S-Pulse won 4-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals, only to lose 2-0 in the final to Oita Trinita – this under the leadership of our manager Kenta Hasegawa.
There seems to be little in the way of injuries in the squad apart from the longer ones that we already know about – Usami, Okazaki and Yonekura. Whether Kaji will be fit or not is a question to ponder but seeing as there was no news release about an injury whilst Yonekura’s was made official, it can only be a short-term one; I doubt that if he was fit he would play tomorrow. In defence, I expect Nishino to come in for Niwa and maybe Yuto Uchida for Fujiharu to give the latter a rest. In midfield, Kurata and Futagawa will be looking for places and Uchida could start if Endo is to be given a rest with Kashima on the weekend to look out for. Yosuke Ideguchi, Omori, Ogawa etc. will be hoping to make a start or get a place on the bench at least. I want to see Sato paired with Lins as a front two or have Lins as the main striker with good support. I have chosen the team I would play, but I doubt I get it right.
From this game, what we want to see is that the team is working on what is going wrong whilst getting what is right still right. This is more of an opportunity than a game that must be won. Although if you say that to the manager he would probably say that winning is more important against his old team and to get some confidence into the team. Which is acceptable and understand, but success of both of these points would be very handy, especially if we want to win the cup.