Current league leaders Kashima Antlers make the long trip to Banpaku for this 16:00 JST kick-off with an eye on extending their lead whilst Gamba look to get back into mid-table following a difficult spell in recent games. This game has been a big rivalry in recent years and this game should have that same atmosphere.
Kashima have won 4 of their 5 games, losing the other one – to cross-city rivals Cerezo Osaka – netting 12 whilst conceding just 3. They have been much more free-flowing in the league away from home and despite losing start striker Yuya Osako over the winter, Brazilian striker Davi has stepped-up to the plate to fill that void.
The last two fixtures between the two sides ended in the visitors for this weekend taking 4 points – the first at home in a 5-0 win with a typical Fujigaya performance in goal and some clinical finishing outside the box whilst the home game for us ended 2-2 with Brazilian striker Leandro gaining a point in the last minute – another game with Fujigaya errors.
Injury news is good this week with Usami now being able to kick the ball and his return should be within the next few weeks as we look for goals. Kaji should also play his part against the Antlers after recovering from injury over the past week.
The team should see the returning Kaji slot back into defence at the cost of the unfortunate Oh Jae-Suk – but that has basically been his time at the club thus far – after having a couple of decent performances in his and Yonekura’s stead. Further chances may see Endo drop back into defensive midfield so we can get a bit more control in the midfield and he should take that place from Myojin, with Abe, Lins and one more supporting Sato up front. Omori, Futagawa and Kurata look lacklustre but the latter should get the spot with any luck as we know what he can do.
A draw would be a good result, just like against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but any form of a confidence boost will be very welcome considering that the Osaka derby is up next in the league.