J2 Matchday 22 Preview
After keeping the same XI for ten straight games, Big Bear was forced into a change for Tochigi when The Salad pulled up lame after training the day before the game, with the club since reporting it'll be a three week recovery time for our main striker. There'll definitely be another change for this one, too, with Tatsuya Yazawa becoming the first of our players to be suspended for accruing four yellow cards this season (unfortunate for all of you who had bets on Masato Morishige doing it first).
We'd all expected (and hoped) it'd be Naohiro Ishikawa taking Yazawa's spot in the XI (and hopefully never giving it back), but that was thrown into doubt when Nao wasn't involved in yesterday's 3-2 friendly win over Tokyo Gakugei University (1 x 45 mins then 2 x 35). Tatsuya Suzuki started with the first team, making him the odds-on favourite to take Yaza's role on the flank, but Genki Nagasato could be a flier for the job after he bagged a brace in the second period.
We should see Daisuke Sakata come on for his debut (why on earth did Uesato come on instead of him with 5 mins to go last Sunday?), while Nagasato will at the very least have to come into the 18 after yesterday's performance, especially as there now appears to be huge doubt over Nao's availability, and considering that neither of the backup centre-halves have been in the squad for the past three games.
On those defenders though, either Jade North or Tomokazu Nagira will be needed next weekend for the return match with Tochigi, as Yasuyuki Konno will be away with the national team for World Cup Qualifiers, unless Big Bear goes with Yuhei Tokunaga in the centre and brings Kenta Mukuhara in at right back. Obviously I'm a little biased and hope North gets the call. OK then, my stab at our squad: XI - Shiota; Tokunaga, Morishige, Konno, Hokuto; Ishikawa (I hope, but probably Tatsuya here), Takahashi, Casual, Tanabe; Hanyu; Lucas, Bench - Gonda, Mukuhara, Uesato, Shimoda, Nagasato, Tatsuya (If Nao misses out...North?), Sakata.
Toyama visited Aji Sta way back in early May, when we were unconvincing but took all three points thanks to sobby substitute Naotake Hanyu's winner with ten minutes to go. Much was made in the build-up to that game of their '3-3-3-1' formation, but in recent weeks it appears to have morphed into 3-6-1 - basically the same but we'll know to expect at least a bank of three deep-lying midfielders attempting to shield their back three.