J2 Matchday 20 Preview
Its been a very busy week here at On the Gas, with Tokyo Bairn's Match Report on last Sunday's win over FC Gifu, my review of the season so far (Part 1, Part 2) and news on the comings and goings at the club this week, so I'll try and keep this short (but will probably fail!).
Tomorrow FC Tokyo return to Ajinomoto Stadium for the first time in four weeks when we host Kusatsu, one of only three teams to beat us this season.
The XI should be the same, no need for a formation graphic (and for some reason the kit in my Gifu preview changed from white to red?!), but the main interest will be in the makeup of our bench, with new boys Genki Nagasato and Daisuke Sakata both in the mix, although we might only see Nagasato this week as he's in season.
Kohei Shimoda's spot in the 18 looks to be in the most threat, and I'd expect him to make way for Nagasato, with Sakata more likely to come into the reckoning for next Sunday's trip to Tochigi SC. Naohiro Ishikawa's return to the squad last weekend meant there was no room for either Jade North or Tomokazu Nagira, as Kenta Mukuhara was the only defender on the bench.
We now have a very deep, but also versatile squad, and those two central defenders might struggle to make the 18 in the coming games, as Yuhei Tokunaga or Hideto Takahashi could fill in at centre half if injury were to strike Yasuyuki Konno or Masato Morishige during a game (touch wood it doesn't).
Therefore, my squad for tomorrow is: XI: Shiota; Tokunaga, Morishige, Konno, Hokuto; Tanabe, Takahashi, Casual, Yazawa; Hanyu; The Salad, bench: Gonda, Mukuhara, Uesato, Nagasato, Ishikawa, Tatsuya, Lucas.
Our worst performance of the season came at their place in Matchday 6, when Rafinha's brace earned them a deserved 2-1 win, though the classy Brazilian has since moved on to Gamba Osaka on loan.
The visitors sit in 12th, but with the league being so tight this season, they're only two points behind sixth-placed Sapporo (who have played a game less). Apart from their win against us, they also had big 3-1 wins over Chiba and The Spews in Matchdays 9 & 10 that saw them rise to fifth, but six games later they had plummeted to 15th after taking one point from 18. Included in that rough stretch were batterings at the hands of Kyoto, Tokushima and, following Rafinha's departure, a stunning 5-0 home loss to Tottori.
They've bounced back somewhat, winning two of their last three, and their XI from last Saturday's 2-1 win at Tosu was: (4-4-2) Kita; Sada, Yanagawa, Arizono, Tanaka; Kobayashi, Nakamura, Sakurada, Kumabayashi; Goto, Alex. We're likely to see Yuki Matsushita in central midfield as he returns from suspension, and joint-top scorer Hiroki Bandai may be back up front after missing his first game of the year last Saturday.
Their form looks to be trending upwards in an up-and-down season, but we enter this fixture high on confidence and most importantly, with a settled XI, a far cry from our visit there back in May, when Tokunaga and Uesato started in central midfield and Casual played in the hole behind Daiki Takamatsu (who had his leg broken).
An early goal for us would be nice to open the game up, and as usual, how we fare with our finishing will determine the outcome of this contest. Hopefully The Salad and the rest of the attacking players will have their shooting boots on, and if they do, revenge will be had for our poor peformance against them earlier in the year.
Look for us to start the second half of the year with a bang....Home Win.