J2 Matchday 2
### I know the J.League is calling this Week/Matchday 8 in J2, as it was on the original fixture list, but as it's the second game of the season, I'm going with Matchday 2. I've edited 2011 Week 1 & (what was to be) 2 posts to reflect this new "Matchday" convention. ###
The wait is almost over. Six weeks after large parts of north-eastern Japan were devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 - and the J.League subsequently went into an enforced recess - league play resumes tomorrow, and FC Tokyo are back in action on Sunday with a visit to Chiba. Our boys have been kept busy during the lay-off, playing a total of nine practice games or charity matches, rounded off by yesterday's 4-1 win over Meiji University at Kodaira.
Chiba are definite promotion candidates, and as you may remember I had them at number 2 in my Preseason J2 Power Rankings, so, on paper, this looks as stiff a test as we'll have all season. We've had some players return to fitness (Yohei Kajiyama, Daiki Takamatsu), and others join the first-team squad (Jade North, Kento Hashimoto), but it appears we will be without some key names (Naohiro Ishikawa, Pedro Junior, Roberto) for this weekend at least (as well as long-term absentee Sota Hirayama, of course), meaning our squad depth will be tested somewhat. Here's what I think we have to look forward to...
In central midfield in this formation Casual and Naotake Hanyu can roam fairly freely (even though I expect Roswell to play a 'holding' role as well to some extent) knowing that Yone will anchor the middle of the park, and this is the one area where I think we'll have an advantage, as the hosts are 4-4-2 and play two holding midfielders, meaning whichever one of Casual and Roswell is in the more advanced role should be able to see a lot of the ball and hopefully use it effectively. When they have the ball, the extra body should help prevent them passing through us, while the Tatsuyas will be needed to track back and help the fullbacks put pressure on their wingers.
On the flanks Yazawa and Tatsuya Suzuki pick themselves while we await the returns of Ishikawa and Pedro Junior, and to be fair both of them deserve their spots after doing well and getting amongst the goals in the practice/charity games. Yes, that was me (kind of) being complementary to Tatsuya Suzuki. Don't get used to it!
Takamatsu proved he was ready to start with an excellent performance in the Kofu practice game, and his return softens the blow of losing Hirayama to a degree, while I expect we'll see The Salad come on for at least half an hour depending on the situation in the game. Just for arguments sake I'll have a shot at predicting the bench too: Shiota; North, Mukuhara; Takahashi (as central midfield cover), Hokuto, Otake; The Salad, although Kazumasa Uesato played yesterday after not featuring at all over the weekend, so he might be included instead of either North or Takahashi.