* Not actually a shop

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kitakyushu v FC Tokyo: Saturday 6pm

J2 Matchday 18 Preview

Fresh off the club's biggest-ever home win, a 5-0 battering of Kumamoto, FC Tokyo head down to Kyushu for the third time in eight weeks tomorrow, to face the surprise of the J2 season, fifth-placed Kitakyushu. The second-year club have shocked the world (well, maybe not quite) with their dogged performances thus far, and after 17 games sit in fifth, having almost doubled their points tally from their debut season (27 pts in '11 compared to 15 in all of '10).

This is the first game of a run of four of five away for The Gasmen, a potentially crucial period of the season that will take us beyond the halfway mark, and if we can tread water and at least stay in the top three during this stretch then our promotion push will be set up nicely.

We have the chance to break or match a couple of club records in this game:
  • Consecutive league clean sheets - we equalled this mark (five, set in both 1999 & 2003) against Kumamoto, so Hitoshi Shiota will set a new record with another clean sheet here;
  • Longest in-season league unbeaten run - we will match the longest run in club history with a win or draw, the record was set in the final 12 games of 2005. 
No change (surprise, surprise!)
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Mr. Okuma will select the same XI for the eighth consecutive game here, provided Yuhei Tokunaga's niggling leg injury is ok.

Our 11-game unbeaten stretch, that began after the 2-1 loss at Kusatsu, has coincided with the number of consecutive starts for Roberto Cesar, Naotake Hanyu and Sotan Tanabe, and those three have developed an excellent rapport in our attacking third, as Kumamoto can attest after they tore the visitors to shreds last Sunday evening.

Tomokazu Nagira made his first appearance in red and blue last weekend, five minutes off the bench, and he's likely to keep his spot in the squad for this game with Jade North having just returned to training this Tuesday. North is a good bet to make the 18 for Gifu away a week on Sunday.

You really have to give their manager, Yasutoshi Miura (older brother of Kazu), enormous credit for the way he's turned around their club in his first season, as they were an absolute laughing-stock in 2010. Their only win in their 36-game debut season was over another of the league's laughing-stocks, The Spews, in Matchday 3, and they scored only 20 goals, while conceeding 65.

So how have Kitakyushu been able to climb all the way up to fifth? Two pretty simple reasons (I'm loving the bullet-points today):
  1. A much-improved defence - after just five clean sheets in the whole of 2010, Kitakyushu have eight already this season through 17 games. Yuya Sato came in from Sapporo and has played every game between the sticks since Matchday 2. 
  2. Beating the dregs of the league - they've managed eight wins so far, and only one of them is against a current top half team (Ehime, who are 10th). If you ignore the fact that they've lost twice to Okayama, who are 16th (please do, as my point goes down the drain if you don't!), they've beaten seven of the bottom half teams.
森村 昂太Last Sunday they won a thriller away at Yokohama FC, with leading scorer Tomoki Ikemoto (five goals) bagging the winner in second half stoppage time to deny the 10-man hosts a point. Their XI was: (4-4-2) Sato; Seki, Miyamoto, Fukui, Fuji; Kuwabara, Kimura, Morimura, Yasuda; Nagano, Ikemoto.

It was the third straight game that Ikemoto has scored in, while their first goal was scored by our youngster Kota Morimura (left), who moved to Kyushu on loan this year, and has started every game so far, after two seasons with Mito.

Unfortunately the travelling Gasmen supporters will not get the chance to see Kota tomorrow, as he picked up his fourth yellow card of the season last week and is suspended. So, far that matter, is 39 year old midfielder Hiroyoshi Kuwabara, who will also miss his first game of the year, which could pave the way for their only Brazilian, Leonardo, to make his sixth start of the season.

I've managed to make it this far without making fun of them for their shirt sponsor, toilet maker TOTO, and therefore I'll move on without taking the piss (or shit) out of them for it.

When the fixture list was released, we all marked this down as an absolute banker for The Gasmen, but give Kitakyushu their due, they've defied expectations and have taken advantage of the evenness of the league, climbing from 13th to 5th in just six weeks. That said though, playing us is a step up in class, and if we come even close to reproducing our outstanding display against Kumamoto we should be able to match that club record and keep hold of top spot.
They're a great story, but this will be an.....Away Win.

1 comment:

  1. They're a great story, but this will be an.....Away Win.


    FC Tokyo shit on themselves today at Honjo. Ridiculous...