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Friday, September 16, 2011

Ehime FC v FC Tokyo: Saturday 6pm

J2 Matchday 25 Preview

Round 2 against The Fightin' Mikans!!!
(and the drooling chick...)

The 6-1 win over Kyoto was historic - the first time we'd ever scored six in a league game, and it matched our biggest-ever home league win - but it won't mean much if we don't kick on from it and string some positive results together.

As I/we mentioned in the Kyoto match report & Episode 9 of Gas Talk, we followed-up our 4-1 win over Kyoto back in May with a tame 1-1 draw against Ehime at Komazawa, and through a quirk in the fixture list we find ourselves facing The Fightin' Mikans again after another battering of Kyoto. This will be our first ever league visit to Shikoku.

The big talking point this week is whether Kenta Mukuhara's superb display at left back against Kyoto, highlighted of course by his first goal for the club, was enough to keep Hokuto Nakamura out of the XI for this game and for the forseeable future.

Here at On the Gas we believe Mukuhara should stay in the side, not just for his goal but for the fact he's a natural defender and has come through our ranks as such (as an aside, one of the best moments of the 6-1 was Muk's goal celebration, nothing elaborate but he was just overjoyed, and you could see how happy fellow youngsters Tanabe and Takahashi were for him too), whereas Hokuto is a born-and-bred midfielder who's adapted to fullback as there was no room for him further up the pitch.

But knowing Mr. Okuma as we all do our fear is that Hokuto will come straight back in, as he did after missing the loss to Kitakyushu through injury back at the end of July. Now I use the word 'fear' there and its probably a bit over the top as Hokuto has never let us down at fullback, but how could the manager possibly drop Mukuhara after last Saturday?!

Elsewhere we'll be unchanged, and that makes total sense after a 6-1 win!

We'll probably be unchanged, in fact, until our Matchday 27 home game against Kitakyushu a week on Wednesday, when Big Bear may have to rotate a few players out as that midweek clash at Aji Sta will be the second of three games in a week.

If it were up to me Jade North would stay in the 18 and Tatsuya Suzuki would drop out with Hokuto returning to the squad, but as it appears Tatsuya is in possession of some uncompromising photos of the manager (how else can you explain him still getting time on the pitch?!), unfortunately North may miss out and we'll be without central defensive cover on the bench, as I suppose Big Bear feels he has Tokunaga and Takahashi able to cover in an emergency.

Still no sign of Roberto Cesar, and while Daiki Takamatsu is back at training and played a half in last Sundays 3-0 practice match loss to Tsukuba University, you'd think he's still a couple of weeks away from being considered for a spot on the bench.

Looks about 12 years old, but he's lethal...
They're 10th in the league and having a very up-and-down season, having been 3rd at the end of Matchday 11, but then 12th after Matchday 18 following a run of one win in seven. They're unbeaten in their last six though (two wins, four draws: including 2-2 draws with Kitakyushu and Tochigi), and last weekend they put an end to Yokohama FC's own six-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 away triumph, thanks to that man Manabu Saito (that's him up there).

Saito has been absolutely brilliant for them this year since coming on loan from J1 Yokohama and has bagged 11 goals, just one behind league leaders Masaki Fukai of Chiba and Yohei Toyoda of Tosu in the race for the golden boot. Having also contributed six assists (according to ElGolazo), he's been involved in 17 of Ehime's 29 league goals, and unfortunately for us he's bang on form, scoring four in the last four, including both their goals in the draw against Kitakyushu in Matchday 21.

This 'mascot' didn't make any
sense to me back in May...
and I still don't get it...
The threat that Saito poses is another reason you have to give the edge to Mukuhara over Hokuto, surely, as Muk has a definite edge in pace and is better equipped to deal with anything the wee man can conjure up. On paper it looks like Yuhei Tokunaga will have to deal with Saito as he'll be named on the left wing, but we saw him switch flanks at Komazawa and I'm sure that's something their manager Ivica Barbaric will try again.

Their XI for the win over Yokohama FC was: (4-4-2) Kawakita; Takasugi, Ikeda, Ono, Maeno; Oyama, Watanabe, Ochi, Saito; Fukuda, Josimar. The Fukuda there is of course Kenji, an ex-Gasmen player from '01-'03, Ono is Kazunari, on loan from Niigata, while Josimar has had a patchy time since being let out of Jade North's pocket, he's scored five goals for the season, but made his first start in eight games last Sunday.

We'll definitely have our hands full with Saito, and Tokunaga and Mukuhara will have be wary of pushing forward too far as if we lose possession in midfield he has the quality to punish us. Of course the danger with focusing so much on one opposition player is that the likes of Fukuda and Josimar could bite you on the arse (figuratively), so we'll need to be at our best defensively for the full 90 minutes.

When we go forward a lot will depend on our ability to make full use of the counter-attacking opportunities we get, and how well Lucas links up with the midfield. If the big fella is in the mood again, it could be a long afternoon for the hosts, and when you consider we have the likes of Naohiro Ishikawa and Daisuke Sakata to come off the bench in the last half hour you'd have to think we'll have too much firepower for them to handle...although that was also the case against Toyama and look how that game turned out...!

They're unbeaten in their last four at home, we've lost our last two away. Will those runs continue at their 20,000 seat Ningineer Stadium?
I sure bloody hope not.....Away Win.

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