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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Okayama v FC Tokyo: Wednesday 7.30pm

J2 Matchday 13 Preview

#The J.League is officially calling this midweek slate of games "Matchday 2" as it was originally scheduled for the second weekend of the season, starting Saturday, March 12. Here at On the Gas, as you've hopefully noticed, we reset after the resumption, and thus, this is Matchday 13.#

Take two on our first-ever game against Okayama, but for the players, and many fans, it will be their second visit this season after they had already made their way down on the day the eathquake and tsunami struck north east Japan. I did a preview of the original fixture back in March, posted on the day of the disaster actually, that you may want to read again, if only to revisit the lovely souvenirs Okayama had on sale for our visit, and of course, my terrible Microsoft Paint formation graphics...

So its On the Gas 1-0 El Golazo after last weekend, as I correctly predicted that Naohiro Ishikawa would start another game on the bench (El G. had Nao in the XI). He's got through his four substitute appearances in fine fettle, topped off by his goal against Mito, and the coaching staff deserve great credit for the way they've managed his return.
This seems like the perfect time to unleash him from kickoff, so Ishikawa in for Naotake Hanyu is my only outfield change from the Mito game, with Nao starting on the right wing and Sotan Tanabe shifting inside.

That's purely what I'd like to see, as I've said before I feel Sotan could do a job for us in the hole. Hanyu seems to be getting decent reviews for his recent performances, but for all the good work he does off the ball, he's not directly creating enough for my liking.

If Hanyu keeps his spot, then either Sotan or Tatsuya Yazawa will have to make way for Nao's return.

The other change comes in goal, where Shuichi Gonda, fresh off his two fine displays for the Japan Under 22s, will replace Hitoshi Shiota. Again, it's harsh on Shiota, but he knows the score.

After tipping Jade North to be fit enough to make the bench at Mito, I spoke to him on the weekend and he told me that while his hamstring was fine, he was still working to build his conditioning back up to where it was before the injury. Therefore, he didn't expect to be ready for this game either, and is targeting a return to the squad for Tottori at home this Saturday.

And as excited as we all are about the return of Lucas, there's no chance of him being involved here. With all that in mind, I'm guessing the bench will be: Shiota, Mukuhara, Uesato, Hanyu, Shimoda, Otake & Tatsuya (Suzuki).

(For some brief info on Okayama's short J2 history, please refer to my original preview.)
The hosts have the second-worst defence in J2 (just a goal better off than FC Gifu), and have lost their last two, including last Saturday's 4-0 battering at the hands of The Spews at Aji Sta, before a bumper crowd (for them) of 2,846. A huge bonus for us from that game came when their Brazilian striker Tiago, the league's joint-second highest scorer, was booked, meaning he'll subsequently miss this clash through suspension.

Their 3-6-1 (really 3-4-2-1) from Saturday was: Mago; Kondo, Takeda, Goto; Kim Min Kyun, Chiaki, Sawaguchi, Ishihara, Usui, Kobayashi; Tiago. You'd expect either Hiroki Kishida or Shingo Kukita to replace Tiago, and they also have the big Bulgarian, Ilian Stoyanov, to return from a suspension of his own.

We're unbeaten in six, and while we've rarely hit the heights, we do seem to be rounding into some consistent form. That will hopefully continue here, with Ishikawa starting we should be off and running from kickoff, and in the absence of Tiago, you have to like our chances.
Four straight wins? Sounds good to me....Away Win.

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