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Shonan Bellmare Match Preview

Shonan Bellmare (16th) vs Gamba Osaka (10th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 30
3 November 2019 at 16:00 JST
Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka


The only J1 fixture on Sunday is a massive clash for both sides with Gamba looking to take a giant step towards securing their J1 status for next season and Shonan hoping to halt a horror run of 7 league games without a win that has seen them slip into the promotion/relegation playoff spot.

Gamba won the reverse fixture between the two back in June with Ryotaro Meshino’s 91st minute wonderstrike all that separated them and this followed the pattern set last year when both teams won their respective home game 1-0.

Shonan have been in a state of shock since long serving manager Cho Kwi-jae was accused of power harassment and forced to step down. He has since been replaced by Bin Ukishima, but they have lost their previous 2 home games heavily, 5-0 against Kawasaki Frontale and 6-0 versus Shimizu S-Pulse. They last won at home on August 3rd when they upset Kashima Antlers by a score of 3-2 but in the 8 league games played since they’ve won just once (3-2 away to bottom club Jubilo Iwata on August 11th) and drawn twice, 1-1 away to Vegalta Sendai and at home to Urawa Reds. Their season has now reached a crisis point as they currently sit in 16th spot in the standings, just one point from safety but also only two points ahead of 17th place Matsumoto Yamaga who are in much better form than they are.

In contrast to Shonan, Gamba have taken 10 points from the previous 8 games (2 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats), although they haven’t won away since defeating Matsumoto 3-1 at the end of June, one of only 3 victories on the road in 2019. They do know, however, that 3 points on Sunday would take them 7 clear of Shonan with only 4 games left and would surely just about guarantee their safety with remaining fixtures at home to Sendai (12th) and Yamaga (17th) as well as away matches against Oita (7th – nothing but pride to play for) and Urawa (9th – the result of this game is likely to be swung by what each team still has to play for, if anything on the final day.)

Team News:
Takashi Usami (left thigh) and Ademilson (hip) both missed the 2-2 draw at home to Kawasaki a fortnight ago, but return to the matchday squad for this crucial clash. Unfortunately attacking midfielder Shu Kurata, who netted his 7th league goal of the campaign against Frontale suffered a fractured cheekbone in the process and is likely to miss the rest of the season. Usami directly replacing Kurata is likely to be the only change to the starting line-up. Kosuke Onose did well in a more advanced role so I imagine he may get another run there with Hiroki Fujiharu once again at left wing-back and Yuya Fukuda on the right, which is supposed to be his favoured side anyway. Veteran forward Kazuma Watanabe should keep his place after netting 3 times in the last 4 league games meaning that Brazilian duo Ademilson and Patric will have to make do with spots on the bench.

Shonan generally set up their side in a similar style to Gamba with 3 centre-backs, against Yokohama F.Marinos in their previous game these were; Takuya Okamoto, Keisuke Saka and captain Kazunari Ohno. Their wing-backs were Shota Kobayashi on the right and 19 year-old rookie Toichi Suzuki on the left with Temma Matsuda and a recently returned from injury Shunsuke Kikuchi in the midfielder engine room. On loan Urawa Reds player Naoki Yamada and the rarely used Kazuki Yamaguchi played just off 187cm target man Ryogo Yamasaki who netted Bellmare’s consolation, his 5th league goal of 2019 which draws him level with Kosuke Taketomi as Shonan’s top scorer this season, Taketomi having already finished his loan and returned to Urawa after the Cho scandal broke. Experienced ‘keeper Yota Akimoto has been an ever present between the sticks for Bellmare this year. Due to their poor run, changes can be expected from Shonan with dangerous Brazilian attacker Crislan, former Urawa attacking midfielder Tsukasa Umesaki and left wing-back Daiki Sugioka, a Japan national team representative in this year’s Copa America, all potential starting options.

Prediction:
A tough one to call for me, in theory Shonan should be there for the taking following 5-0 and 6-0 thrashings in their last two home games, but Gamba’s away form hasn’t been great for the majority of the season so I’m kind of leaning towards a draw. Shonan’s defence is leaky, conceding 57 goals in just 29 games (2nd worst in the league after Shimizu) and Gamba do have a fondness for a 2-2 draw this year (4 in total including 3 away from home), so that’s what I’m going to opt for.

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 34 Yuya Fukuda (20)
LWB 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (30)
CM 21 Shinya Yajima (25)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23)
AM 8 Kosuke Onose (26)
AM 33 Takashi Usami (27)
CF 39 Kazuma Watanabe (33)

Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23), 13 Shunya Suganuma (CB/29), 7 Yasuhito Endo (CM/39), 29 Leo Takae (CM/AM/21), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31), 9 Ademilson (CF/25), 18 Patric (CF/31)

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