J2 Matchday 27 Preview
FC Tokyo returned to the top of J2 with a comfortable 3-0 win over Yokohama FC on Sunday, and The Gasmen are back in action tomorrow night at Aji Sta when we host Kitakyushu. This game, along with seven others kicking off at the same time, will complete an elongated Matchday 27 (originally MD 5) which began two weeks ago when Tosu thumped Okayama and continued last Wednesday when Sapporo took top spot after ambushing The Spews 4-2.
We know he generally doesn't like to change a winning team, and Mr. Okuma has kept faith with the same core group of players wherever possible this season, but he may be tempted to rest one or two here, with a tricky trip to Tokushima on the horizon this weekend.
Before Sunday I would've said Naotake Hanyu was a prime candidate to be rotated out for this game, but of course his three minute brace against Yokohama FC makes that unlikely, so, with Naohiro Ishikawa itching for his first start of the season, I believe the manager will rest Sotan Tanabe and bring Nao into the XI.
I could see the same team as Sunday starting this game, of course, and we hardly need "freshening up" after scoring 14 goals in our last three, but Tanabe has been very hit or miss in the past month, and might benefit from a spell here before we face what looks a sterner test away on Sunday.
It'll most likely be the same 18, regardless of who starts, as The Salad has joined Daiki Takamatsu in returning to training, though on a reduced workload for the time being.
As we all remember, Kitakyushu ended our 11-game unbeaten run back at the end of July, thanks to a sublime strike from Tomoki Ikemoto in the second half. It could have been oh so different though if Casual had scored from the spot in the first half, but it wasn't our day and their defensive doggedness saw them earn a famous win.
Just to prove it wasn't a fluke though, they backed up the next weekend and beat Tokushima, also 1-0, before they appeared to get nosebleeds from being so high in the table (5th), and since then they've gone seven games without a win, slipping to 8th. Still an incredible position for them to be in though, when you consider how outclassed they were last season.
Last weekend they had a good scrap with Chiba at Fuku Ari, but succumbed 1-0, and their XI was: (4-4-2) Sato; Seki, Miyamoto, Kawanabe, Fuji; Kim Jong Pil, Kimura, Morimura, Yasuda; Ikemoto, Oshima. As Morimura is on loan from us he may be ineligible for this game (he was suspended anyway for the first meeting), but I'm not sure if the terms of his loan are the same as Ryo Hiraide's, so he may play.
Look for them to try and keep it very tight at the back, before trying to hit us on the counter...after all, it worked well for them the first time around!
A win here in our game in hand would send us four points clear of Sapporo, while Chiba could join the Hokkaido side on 50 points if they beat Kyoto at home. We'll have 11 games remaining following this (5 Home, 6 Away), and a four point cushion at the top could be hugely significant when you consider we still have to visit Tokushima (on Sunday), Tosu and then Sapporo on the final day of the season, as well as hosting the second Derby and also Chiba in Matchday 37.
Hopefully we're catching these at the right time, as their confidence must've taken a hit in the past seven weeks, and in the type of form we're in, you'd have to imagine we'll have goals in us.
Regardless of if there are changes or not, its gotta be a....Home Win.