After our first home league win of the season, we travel to the Todoroki Stadium for a 16:00 JST kick-off against hosts Kawasaki Frontale who will be no pushovers and will no doubt be buoyed by their qualification to the last 16 of the ACL during the week – just another tough away game to tick off the list.
The hosts started their league campaign slowly but won 3 games in a row before drawing and then losing to Kashiwa Reysol and Urawa Reds with their eyes split between the league and the ACL. Their league form has taken a hit because of that and the team currently sits 2 points and 5 places ahead of us in 8th place. With 26 goals in 8 league matches during Frontale matches, we should be in for more of the same this weekend.
Gamba won 4 of the last 6 fixtures between the two sides, drawing the others 4-4 and losing 2-1. There are rarely any clean sheets for either side in this fixture and this is very much true for the meetings back in 2012, which Gamba miraculously won 3-2 on both occasions. The first saw us come 2-0 to win having conceded twice in the opening half an hour (including in the first minute) but now Frontale man Nakazawa, Sato and a first professional for Hiroyuki Abe won us the game. During the away game, we took the lead only to lose it twice with goals from Ienaga and Fujiharu putting us ahead, with the former winning the game thanks to a lovely knock-down by Leandro. That game saw Akihiro Sato’s nightmare injury period start when he was substituted for Ienaga after 15-20 minutes, but it worked out well in the short term.
There is no more news concerning injuries for any players and therefore we can expect that only Kaji, Yonekura and Okazaki will be unavailable for the game. Positively, Takashi Usami has had a full week of training under his belt and should make the bench following two months out on the sidelines due to an ankle injury and I am sure he will be chomping at the bit to get on and score as soon as possible – we need him.
As for the starting line-up, I already know that Konno will be back in the starting eleven following his injury in the Osaka Derby that limited him to the bench last weekend, but who he comes in place for is undecided. I would think Sato and Omori will drop to the bench meaning Konno will rejoin in defensive midfield with Endo supporting Lins the closest whilst Kurata has done enough for me to merit his return to the starting eleven out on the left with Abe on the right. I think Uchida has done enough in the last two games to show that he deserves to continue in the team after being ousted by Myojin for a short spell. My predicted team is to the side.
Another away day would mean to go home with a point as a minimum and I think a draw would be a good result against a strong Kawasaki side. Frontale have made Todoroki a fortress since we were relegated in 2012, with just 3 defeats in the league at home and 6 draws, winning the rest. A statement of our intent and growing confidence would be to turn up and spoil the hosts’ afternoon but I just do not see that without a fully fit Usami. We should be confident though and having had a longer break in-between league games, we might just be able to cause a mini-upset.