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Friday, July 22, 2011

FC Tokyo v Kumamoto: Sunday 6.30pm

J2 Matchday 17 Preview

After the euphoria of last Sunday, when FC Tokyo's 4-0 battering of FC Gifu saw us climb to the top of the table and was topped off by Lucas' first appearance in a red and blue shirt in 43 months, The Gasmen will look to keep the good times rolling when fifth-placed Kumamoto visit us at the National Stadium on Sunday.

Before the weekend began I don't think any sane Gas-head would've even considered the possibility of us vaulting from fourth to the top of the league, but after Tochigi and Tokushima both drew at home on Saturday, we took care of business and Shonan did us a huge favour in the late kickoff on Sunday, downing previous leaders Chiba 2-0 at Hiratsuka.

I'm not even going to bother doing a formation graphic for this week, for two reasons: there's no doubt what the XI will be; and this11.com is playing up (at least on our home computer).

The squad should be unchanged as well, and once more the main interest will be in how much time Lucas gets off the bench, and how we set up when he makes it on the pitch. Last Sunday the big man replaced Sotan Tanabe (who had his best game since Kyoto, with a goal and two assists) and Naotake Hanyu slid over to the left, with Lucas playing in the hole, slightly further forward than Roswell usually does.

I still believe that when he's fully fit and ready to start Lucas will play alongside Roberto Cesar in a flat 4-4-2, but for now I have to give credit to Mr. Watanabe from the Tokyo Damacy show for his correct prediction that #49 would play behind The Salad...at least for now.

With little debate about the makeup of the XI or indeed the squad, and after rewatching the Gifu game, I wanted to show you the second goal again. It all started with a short goal kick from Shiota to Konno, but just keep your eye on Tanabe, who receives the ball from the captain. (It looks shit on this screen grab, but the quality is actually pretty good)

After playing a square ball to Morishige, he just saunters through the centre circle watching the play develop, and after Hanyu did well to chase down Yuhei Tokunaga's through ball, Sotan was in a perfect position to receive The Salad's clipped pass.

Brilliant movement, and a very composed finish to round-off an excellent team goal, in which every player apart from Hokuto and Casual touched the ball.

Our recent five-game winning run started at their place in the middle of June, with The Salad scoring the only goal of the game at Kumamoto Athletics Stadium six weeks and seven games ago. In a wonderful statistical oddity that probably only interests me, they were six games unbeaten when we went down there and won, and since that game they are...six games unbeaten! Again! Will history repeat? I sure bloody hope so!

Those of you paying attention will notice that our win there was the only loss they've suffered in their last 13, so despite the fact they've drawn too many games (eight, most in the league), and have slipped slightly behind in the promotion race (five points off third), they're fifth on merit, due mainly to their stingy defence and the goals of young Shun Nagasawa.

You remember Nagasawa, don't you? Yeah, the guy who looked like he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat against us, wasting at least three glorious chances. Well since our visit he's got his mojo back, scoring both their goals in a 2-1 win over Ehime, and the first goal in the draw at Chiba two weeks ago (they've drawn with Chiba home and away, by the way).

They came back to earth somewhat last weekend, held to a 1-1 home draw by lowly Toyama, when their XI was: (4-4-2) Minami; Ichimura, Yano, Fukuo, Harada; Taketomi, Edmilson, Nejime (who scored), Osako; Fabio, Nagasawa. That XI was almost the same as the one we faced in Matchday 10, the main absentee being Shosuke Katayama, who was suspended after his sending-off against Chiba. He's likely to return in place of Osako on Sunday.

Things certainly won't be as easy as last Sunday, as Kumamoto have allowed just 11 goals all season, but you get the feeling there's a growing confidence in our squad, with the return of Lucas doing a lot to help that along. It would be brilliant if the big man could get on the scoresheet here, as we're not going to see the boys in the capital for another three weeks, part of a run where we'll play four of five away.

They will have learnt a lot from our earlier visit there, but with our midfield well settled and The Salad in the mood and hungry for goals you have to like our chances.
A balmy Sunday evening at Kokuritsu, topped off with a....Home Win.

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