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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tokushima v FC Tokyo: Sunday 4pm

J2 Matchday 28 Preview
26 橋内 優也 Yuya HASHIUCHI 
Yeahhhh buddy!!!
With 11 games left in the J2 season, we've finally opened up a tangible gap at the top of the table, thanks to a four-game winning run in which we've scored 16 and let in only one. Six of our last 11 are away from home, and three of those trips are against fellow promotion chasers, starting with tomorrow's late afternoon kickoff against 3rd-placed Tokushima.

Sotan Tanabe picked up his 4th yellow card of the season on Wednesday night and is therefore suspended for this match, but that may actually be a blessing in disguise for a couple of reasons, as it allows Tanabe, who has faded out of games quite noticably in the past month, to recharge his batteries, while opening the door for Naohiro Ishikawa to make his first start of the season.

Ishikawa has been handled very carefully by the manager in his 13 appearances off the bench so far, but surely now this opportunity, with Tanabe missing, is the perfect time to unleash him from the start. The only possible reason I could see that not happening is if Big Bear decides to go with Hokuto Nakamura, who has been cooling his heels on the bench since his return from suspension thanks to the strong performances (and two goals) from Kenta Mukuhara.

Apart from that one enforced change there's no question about the rest of the XI keeping their places, but we might have a nice selection dilemma for the next league game at home to Okayama in a fortnight, with Roberto Cesar back in full training (finally!) following his calf strain, while of course Tanabe will be eligible to return for that one.

You'd expect to see The Salad play some part in the Emporer's Cup game at home to FC Kagoshima next Saturday, and if he gets through that unscathed, to return via the bench against Okayama. The only question remaining is who comes into the 18 with Tanabe out. I'd obviously like to see Jade North get the nod, and I believe he should as we may need extra defensive cover on the bench, but Kohei Shimoda is also a possibility if the manager decides he needs another midfielder.

Tokushima rose to 3rd on Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over Kumamoto, going above Tosu, who didn't play, and Chiba, who were stunned at home by Kyoto. I got to see that game, replayed on JSports1, and while they were decent value for their win, Tokushima didn't exactly set the world on fire. In fact, before Akihiro Sato scored the only goal of the game in the 27th minute, Kumamoto had seen more of the ball, with Tokushima content to play on the counter attack.

Thats how the goal came about, and is something we'll have to be mindful of tomorrow. Sato took a loose ball from around the halfway line and played it out to Takeshi Hamada, continuing his run into the box. When Hamada crossed Tomohiro Tsuda drew a defender across goal with an excellent dummy run, allowing the ball to run to Sato around the penalty spot, and he lashed home on the turn.

Their XI against Kumamoto was: (4-4-2) Oh Seung Hoon; Shimamura, YUYA HASHIUCHI Yeahhhh buddy!!!, Bae Seung Jin, Nishijima; Hamada, Kuranuki, Saito, Kakitani; Sato, Tsuda. Their balanced attack has seen Tsuda, who brings the beef up front as their main striker, Sato, and exciting young winger Yoichiro Kakitani all score six goals, while the versatile Tsuyoshi Shimamura has chipped in with five despite spending a lot of time at right back.

While those four, along with Hamada, are ones to watch, I'm most looking forward to seeing The Abominable Footballer, Yuya Hashiuchi, again. Now unfortunately he's had his once-in-every-five-years haircut since his brilliant squad photo was taken, but he still looks like a caveman, no doubt about it, and should have his hairy hands full filling in at centre half for the injured Takashi Miki.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since we beat them 1-0 at Aji Sta back in Matchday 11, our best home performance of the first few months of the season despite the narrow scoreline. Casual got the only goal that day, bundling in The Salad's knocked-down header, in a game we completely dominated.

They'll be out for revenge on their home turf, and will be dangerous on the flanks with Kakitani and Hamada sure to test Mukuhara and Yuhei Tokunaga, but we of course pose a big threat of our own, and Nao should be extra fired up to do well on his return to the XI. You'd expect there to be goals in this one, and I'm tempted to pick a score draw, but while we're in such a rich vein of form, I've gotta stick with the boys.
A very tough test, but we'll do the business again....Away Win.

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