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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who's Going Up With Us?

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Our ticket back up to J1 has been punched (even though we can't officially celebrate yet as our Magic Number is 1), as its practically impossible for the team in 4th, Sapporo, to catch us with three games left given our massive advantage in goal difference (ours is +41, theirs +15).

While its possible all of the top four could finish on 71 points (if we lose all three games, Tosu lose to Tokushima but win the other two, Tokushima and Sapporo win all three), thats extremely unlikely, so lets look at the final run-in for the five other teams still mathematically in the hunt, starting from the bottom (6th) up.

Firstly then, the two teams almost entirely out of the running, though they can't be ruled out 100% (yet).
6th - Kitakyushu (54, -1): Tosu (2nd) A, The Spews (7th) H, Oita (12th) A
With their horrid goal difference they need to win all three and have Sapporo AND Tokushima lose all three. Not going to happen, but they've been the story of the season and Yasutoshi Miura is Manager of the Year by a mile. If they can manage to take a point off Tosu this Saturday it will have major implications on the promotion chase, even though they'll be out of it.
5th - Chiba (55, +8): The Spews (7th) A, FC Tokyo (1st) A, Mito (16th) H
I predicted in my Run-In piece, written with ten games left, that their consecutive trips to Aji Sta would mark the end of their promotion hopes, but even if they beat The Spews on Sunday (which I don't think they will), if the two teams above them win this weekend that will be them out of it, even before we host them in Matchday 37. At least this season they have an excuse: Tor Hogne Aaroy missed 14 games with his knee injury.

While I'm talking about my Run-In piece, here are the point totals gained by the top six in the seven games since then:
  1. FC Tokyo 14 (Just the one loss, to Oita)
  2. Tosu 15 (Unbeaten in this time and 16 games total! One loss in their last 20!)
  3. Tokushima 13 (Just two losses but they were big ones: v verdy & Sapporo)
  4. Sapporo 9 (Three wins, four losses)
  5. Chiba 5 (They simply don't deserve to go up: one win in last seven)
  6. Kitakyushu 14 (I didn't even include them as they were 8th at that time)
Now to the two teams who seem to be battling it out for third (very difficult for them to get 2nd as they'll need to get a point above Tosu, who also have a huge goal difference advantage), and Shonan will clearly have a huge hand in shaping this race in the next two weeks.
4th - Sapporo (62, GF:44 GA:29 +15): Kusatsu (10th) A, Shonan (13th) A, FC Tokyo (1st) H
They've won three of their last four, including that huge away win at Tokushima, which came after they'd appeared to have shot themselves in the foot losing three straight. The next two are away, but they'll fancy their chances in all three with leading scorer Yoshihiro Uchimura and midfielder Makoto Sunakawa doing the business, though it was interesting that Fat Yusuke started on the bench last weekend, the first time he's been out of the XI since the first game of the season. They should win the next two which makes the last game, when they host us, the wildcard: we should have the league wrapped up by then, and they'll have it all to play for.
3rd - Tokushima (62, GF:49 GA:33 +16): Shonan (13th) A, Tosu (2nd) H, Okayama (14th) A
They have first crack at Shonan, and anything other than a win will put them right behind the eight ball with the Tosu game up next. They'll have to do it in Hiratsuka without their target man Tomohiro Tsuda though, after he was the hero AND goat in the 1-0 win at Tochigi last Saturday, scoring the winner but then getting booked (his fourth of the season) after celebrating for too long (didn't take off his shirt). They were seriously under the cosh for large parts of the game and clearly missed the suspended trio of Takashi Miki and Bae Seung Jin in defence and flying winger Yoichiro Kakitani going forward, but that kind of backs-to-the-wall win should hold them in good stead for Shonan, who have only pride to play for.

Finally then to the longest-serving J2 team, who are very close to their first-ever, and a very richly deserved (if they get it, which I hope they do), promotion:
2nd - Tosu (65pts, +32): Kitakyushu (6th) H, Tokushima (3rd) A, Kumamoto (11th) H
Two words: Yohei Toyoda. If he avoids injury in the last three games he'll be scoring the goals that send them up, its almost that simple. 15 goals in the last 15 games has seen him run away with the Golden Boot, and clinched him the J2 Player of the Season Award. Crucially they've got Kim Min Woo back from injury at just the right time, and his creativity should help Toyoda unlock the door to J1. Yes, they do have two Kyushu Derbies sandwiching the biggest game in both their own and Tokushima's histories in Matchday 37, but even just a win and a draw in the last three should be enough to see them finish third at worst.

With ten games left I predicted that we'd win the league and Sapporo and Tokushima would grab the other two promotion spots, but Tosu have been outstanding in the second half of the season and fully deserve to be where they are. Of the two teams 'chasing 3rd' it could very well come down to goal difference, and Tokushima will likely be praying that we do them a favour on the last day. Its going to be a fantastic finish, and thank god we've already got our foot and four toes back in J1 so we can watch it all play out.

OK then, time to stick my neck out (and probably be wrong yet again): The Top Three in J2 will be:
  1. logo(Returning to J1 with our tails between our legs...)
  2.     logoThree more unbeaten to close out the season.
  3.     logoTwo wins and a draw against us on the final day sees them edge out Tokushima, who lose to Tosu in Matchday 37...

1 comment:

  1. Hint here: FC Tokyo's tail is in Ben's mouth...