Most FC Tokyo fans probably thought we'd never see them again, but our relegation at the end of 2010 meant that the derby against
The #13 in the title refers to the number of league meetings since they moved to Tokyo in 2001 (by the way, 44,030 at the first-ever derby at Aji Sta in '01 - WOW), and of the 12 previous J1 clashes we've won six and lost four, with two games drawn (just for the record, they won both games in 2000 when they were still in Kawasaki, and we've won all five Nabisco games). This will be our first-ever meeting in J2, and hopefully the second, in late-October, will be the last!
Sapporo used the 'How to Play Against FC Tokyo Away' blueprint to perfection on Saturday, and the fact that we weren't able to break them down early, when we dominated possession, meant that the positive signs that we'd shown in the Chiba game (and there were several, despite the result) - a much more open, end-to-end affair against a fellow contender - went out the window, as Okuma demonstrated again that his blind faith in our players to counter the blueprint is severely misplaced. About the only good thing we could take from the Sapporo game was getting minutes on the pitch into the legs of The Salad, Takamatsu and Pedro Junior.
My two changes from Saturday would be Yohei Otake for Tatsuya Suzuki, with Tatsuya Yazawa switching over to the right, and Kazumasa Uesato for Kenta Mukuhara, with Yuhei Tokunaga taking Muk's place at right back and Uesato playing the holding midfield role (wishful thinking, I realise).
So, if these are pretty much the same players, how do we counter the blueprint, you ask? Good question! We are the away team in this game, but I expect The Spews will try to flood the midfield and the game will follow the pattern of most of our Aji Sta home games. Therefore, if this is the XI chosen, its up to Otake and Yazawa to keep our width and not get sucked into the centre, which would clog things up further. Yazawa also needs to move the ball on quicker, and come to think of it, thats a criticism I've had of Otake in the past, too. On Saturday our fullbacks weren't able to overlap as much as the Chiba game, especially in the second half, and that could be a weapon we can exploit.
Uesato would be the deeper-lying midfielder, but also offers a lot more going forward (cracking goal in the Matsumoto charity match, for example) than Tokunaga has thus far (or ever will), and I could see him working well with the tortured genius, Casual. Up front, The Salad has shown flashes, but there's been basically no link-up play with Takamatsu yet in their 80-odd minutes on the pitch together, so hopefully they've been working on that at training and he just needs a goal for it all to start clicking.
They've lost to Kumamoto, Ehime and Tosu thus far, but are the holders of the Championship Belt, having won our last league meeting, in the torrential rain at Kokuritsu, in 2008. Despite having blooded a lot of youngsters, they're still anchored by our former 'keeper Yoichi Doi.
Their XI from the battering they took at Tosu was: Doi; Fukuda, Tsuchiya, Fukatsu, Mori; Takagi, Saeki, Kikuoka, Iio; Kawano, Hiramoto; though their goal was scored by sub Ryuichi Hirashige.
I dunno, what can we really say about these? Let's just hope its an open game, with the right result.
Which is....Away Win.
You'll Never Walk Alone