Despite the league campaign being done until mid-July, a week of Nabisco Cup games start from Wednesday as we look to qualify to the quarter-finals of the competition. Gamba will be the last team to get a bye in the group so will have to secure our position in the top 2 as soon as possible. Usually I would write out a preview and report for each but with so many games in such a short time, and the lack of said time, I will preview and report on all the games collectively.
The first game, which is on Wednesday 21st May, is a home game against Kashima Antlers with the kick-off time being 19:00 JST. Antlers have already beaten us at Banpaku this season in a comfortable 2-0 game for them with Davi and Caio netting for the visitors. They sit in 4th place on an equal amount of points as us (6 points) and will be looking to improve on their recent league form.
The second game comes on Saturday 24th May which is also at Banpaku, the kick-off time being 16:00 JST. We will host FC Tokyo, the team that humiliated us just last weekend in a 3-0 home win at Ajinomoto Stadium with Edu being the prime man we donated to as he scored twice. The visitors sit atop of Group A at the moment with 7 points from 3 games and will be looking to extend their lead knowing S-Pulse have a game in hand.
The final match before the 7 week or so break comes in Sendai as we take on Vegalta at the Yurtec Stadium with a 19:00 JST kick-off time on Wednesday 28th May. The league match between the two sides came back in round 3, ending in a 0-0 draw in Sendai. Vegalta have only 1 point from their 3 games so far but have been banging in-form in the league of late, winning 4 games in succession and taking themselves away from us and the relegation zone.
So to the players who will be out of the games. Firstly, Endo and Konno have already left to join up with the national team ahead of the World Cup and are therefore not available whilst Naoki Ogawa has joined the U-19 national team for a training camp in will miss the Kashima match. Oh Jae-Suk is suspended for the Kashima game having picked up the 2 necessary cautions it takes to get one suspended. Other than that, we should be missing no-one except for the obvious Kaji and Tatsuya Uchida who are both still a touch too far away – at best they can make the Sendai game.
You would be hoping that the guys who have been used thus far in the competition will continue to be given a chance – the likes of Yuto Uchida, Yonekura, Ideguchi, Myojin, Okazaki etc. spring to mind the most as they are all in search of some match practice in one way or another. These guys need to be given a chance to show the manager what they can do as his regular choices have not worked out so well as of yet. The manager also needs to be making a solid starting eleven as we have not had a consistent one yet, and these eleven players (barring Endo and Konno) should be given time to gel in these 3 games. I would rather see us show promise in these next 3 games than qualify with the same old same old. It will be up to the manager to decide on that.
We need to end on a positive note following the disgrace of a performance on the weekend. The players need to give the fans something to look forward whilst ensuring that the manager keeps his job. Hopefully these two points can be achieved in conjunction with making a solid starting eleven.