Gamba Osaka (12th) vs Kawasaki Frontale (4th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 29
19 October 2019 at 14:00 JST
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Both sides return to league business this week following League Cup action during the international break. Kawasaki successfully reached the final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Kashima Antlers while Gamba were eliminated on away goals by Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.
In the league, Gamba lost their first 4 home games this year, but have gone unbeaten in the next 10 with their last home defeat coming against Urawa on April 14th. They’ve also won 5 of their last 8 league games at home, however the 5-0 rout of Sapporo in round 28 is the only time they’ve won by more than one goal, Cerezo, Shonan, S-Pulse and Tosu have all been seen off by 1-0 scorelines.
Kawasaki, on the other hand, are statistically the best away side in J1 with 26 points from 13 games which includes 8 victories, also a league high. They, like Gamba, won their previous match 5-0, in their case away to Shonan Bellmare, with 4 of the goals coming inside the first 35 minutes of the match. Prior to that they had lost 2 out of 3 league contests with the defeats coming against Gamba’s Kansai rivals, losing 2-1 both at home to Kobe and away to Cerezo.
Gamba won the reverse fixture between these sides in round 4 back in March. Genta Miura’s 91st minute strike was all that separated the two teams, both notorious for starting seasons slowly. Gamba were also victorious in the corresponding game last year, goals from Kazuma Watanabe and Fabio giving them what, at the time, was considered a surprise win, however, it went on to kickstart their season and was ultimately the first of nine consecutive J1 victories under Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.
Kim Young-gwon returns to the Gamba squad after missing the league cup semi-final due to an international call-up and will surely take Shunya Suganuma’s place in the back 3. Yahoo Japan have reported that Takashi Usami is likely to miss this game after he went off injured against Consadole in the first half of last Sunday’s clash, he’s said to be targeting the match away to Shonan Bellmare on November 3rd for his return. The same Yahoo article also stated that Ademilson was a doubt for Saturday after injuring a leg muscle in the same game as Usami, though given his performance last Sunday it’s possible he was in line to be dropped to the bench anyway.
It would definitely be a big blow for Gamba if Usami is ruled out as he’s started to come into decent form following his mid-season return from a spell in Germany. Patric and Watanabe could form the strikeforce in the absence of Usami and Ademilson or if they are considered too similar to each other, big name Spaniard Markel Susaeta might come into the starting eleven, playing just off Patric.
Elsewhere, Yuto Suzuki is unable to play against his parent club, he could have potentially made the bench due to the attacking injury problems. Attacking midfielders Leo Takae, Daisuke Takagi and David Concha are likely to compete for the 2 bench slots made available by Ademilson and Usami’s injuries, all 3 of them played in Gamba U23’s draw away to Gainare Tottori in J3 last week.
For Kawasaki, centre-backs Tatsuki Nara (a target for Gamba last winter) and Jesiel are out injured. These losses have seen Shintaro Kurumaya, more normally a full-back partnering Shogo Taniguchi in the heart of the defence, former Cerezo utility player Kazuya Yamamura is another option. The 2017 and 2018 league champions have also struggled to adequately replace Brazilian right-back Elsinho, who surprisingly moved to S-Pulse last winter and have had something of a rotation policy going on in his absence. Hidemasa Morita, who starred in central midfield last season, played there in the previous league match away to Shonan, while Kazuaki Mawatari and Kyohei Noborizato took turns in the league cup matches against Kashima.
Going forward, however, Kawasaki have a plethora of options, including former Gamba favourites, the creative Akihiro Ienaga and Hiroyuki Abe who’s scored 7 goals in just 18 J1 games this year (and is a player I’d happily welcome back to Gamba). Central midfielder Ryota Oshima returned from an injury lay-off as a sub against Kashima and could come into consideration for a starting role in this game. Fellow midfielder Ao Tanaka scored twice for Japan Under-22 in their 3-2 win away to their Brazilian counterparts, however his late arrival back in Japan may preclude him from starting this fixture..
Prior to the previous home game with Consadole Sapporo I felt I’d be happy with 10 points from the remaining 4 home games, with 3 points already in the bag and the final 2 matches being against struggling Sendai and Matsumoto, I’d definitely take a draw in this game. That said Kawasaki may be an ageing side who’s standards have slipped a little this year, but they still possess a wealth of talent, particularly in midfield and attack and come into the game in decent form.
While Gamba are desperate to move away from the fight to avoid the 16th place relegation play-off spot, Kawasaki will be equally motivated to move into the top 3 and seal a place in next season’s Asian Champions League. With my heart ruling my head I’ll go for a 1-1 draw, but maybe a more realistic prediction would be a 2-1 Kawasaki win.
Predicted Gamba Line-up:
GK 1 Masaaki Higashiguchi (33 years old)
CB 27 Ryu Takao (22)
CB 5 Genta Miura (C) (24)
CB 19 Kim Young-gwon (29)
RWB 8 Kosuke Onose (26)
LWB 34 Yuya Fukuda (20)
DM 21 Shinya Yajima (25)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23)
CM 10 Shu Kurata (30)
CF 18 Patric (31)
CF 39 Kazuma Watanabe (33)
Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23), 13 Shunya Suganuma (CB/29), 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (LB/LWB/30), 7 Yasuhito Endo (CM/39), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31), 11 David Concha (RW/LW/CF/22), 20 Daisuke Takagi (RW/LW/CF/24)
Gamba Osaka (12th) vs Kawasaki Frontale (4th)