Oita Trinita (8th) vs Gamba Osaka (9th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 31
10 November 2019 at 14:00 JST
Showa Denko Dome Oita
Gamba travel to Kyushu this Sunday for their penultimate away game of the season knowing that a win will take them within just two points of Oita who sit only one place ahead of them in the standings. Both sides have had very contrasting seasons, Gamba kicked off their campaign by taking just 8 points from their first 11 games but have since steadied the ship, losing only 3 times in the following 19 league matches. Oita, on the other hand, came flying out of the blocks and after 12 games were sitting pretty with 24 points, since then life in J1 has proved tougher and they’ve taken just 19 points from the past 18 games with only 4 wins coming alongside 7 draws and 7 defeats. That said, the men from Kyushu would have bitten your hand off at the start of the year to have such a comfortable return to top flight football.
The reverse fixture between the sides took place back in April and saw Gamba have the better of play, but in the end the game finished 1-1 with Yasuhito Endo’s deflected shot in the 71st minute cancelling out Ado Onaiwu’s first half opener in front of just 17,727 fans (Gamba’s lowest attendance of the season). Prior to that the last league meeting between the two came way back in 2009, with Gamba winning both games, 1-0 at home and 3-1 away. However, Gamba have lost on each of their previous 3 league visits to Kyushu, 3-1 to Sagan Tosu in May as well 3-0 defeats to both Tosu and V-Varen Nagasaki in 2018. Their last win in Kyushu came on 26 August 2017 when second-half goals from Shu Kurata, Shun Nagasawa and Hiroki Fujiharu led them to a 3-1 win against Tosu which actually proved to be their final victory of the season as they collapsed in Kenta Hasegawa’s final matches in charge.
Gamba captain and centre-back Genta Miura as well as central midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi both received recalls to the Japan national team for the Kirin International Challenge match against Venezuela at Panasonic Stadium Suita on November 19th, Miura currently has 7 caps while Ideguchi has 2 goals in 12 national team appearances. For Oita, on-loan Urawa forward Ado Onaiwu who has netted 10 times for them in J1 this season will join Miura and Ideguchi in the squad, his first senior call-up. His team-mate, centre-back Tomoki Iwata will be part of the Japan Under-22 squad for the match against Colombia on November 17th where he’ll be joined by Gamba U23 goalkeeper Kosei Tani. In further international news, Gamba’s South Korean centre-back Kim Young-gwon will be looking to add to his 74 caps in matches against Lebanon and Brazil.
Gamba made 4 changes to the starting line-up in their last game against Shonan Bellmare. Forwards Takashi Usami and Ademilson returned from injury to take the places of the injured Shu Kurata and experienced striker Kazuma Watanabe. Yasuhito Endo came into the deep-lying playmaker role and formed a midfield triangle with Yosuke Ideguchi and Shinya Yajima while right wing-back Yuya Fukuda missed out altogether (I assume he was injured but I didn’t see any announcements) and Kosuke Onose reverted to his regular role down the right having played as a second striker in the previous match at home to Kawasaki Frontale. The final move saw Shunya Suganuma replace Ryu Takao in the back 3 which seemed to give it a more solid look although Takao definitely does possess more pace than Suganuma. I’d expect Gamba to continue with the same starters against Oita with only potentially Watanabe coming in for Ademilson, who failed to score from 5 shots against Shonan or if Fukuda returns from injury (he was pictured alongside a mask-wearing Shu Kurata training with the top team on Thursday) then he could take the place of Fujiharu in the starting eleven or David Concha on the subs bench.
Oita are pretty set on a 3-4-2-1 formation which has seen them achieve excellent results this season. Shun Takagi, who blundered badly for FC Tokyo’s opener last week is the first choice goalkeeper. The three centre-backs consist of; captain Yoshinori Suzuki who is flanked by Tomoki Iwata, a member of Japan’s squad at this year’s Copa America and Yuto Misao, older brother of Kashima Antlers Kento. Right wing-back Rei Matsumoto has been an ever present for Trinita in J1 this year while on the left is Tatsuya Tanaka who of course joined mid-season from Gamba, only a matter of months after moving to Osaka from Roasso Kumamoto. In the midfield engine-room, another summer signing Yuki Kobayashi (Nagoya Grampus) is likely to be partnered by either Toshio Shimakawa or 22 year-old Yushi Hasegawa. Further forward, Kazuki Kozuka is a key provider of assists and he will probably be joined by the experienced Kazuki Mitsuhira in playing off of the diminutive Yusuke Goto in attack. Goto, who netted the winner away to Urawa a couple of weeks back is currently keeping top-scorer Ado Onaiwu on the bench, although I feel this may be due to Oita having only pride to play for and Onaiwu being set to return to his parent club, Urawa Red Diamonds, in 2020. Trinita don’t score many goals, just 32 in 30 games prior to this one, with Onaiwu and now departed forward Noriaki Fujimoto (Vissel Kobe’s bench) contributing 18 goals between them, however they are very solid at the back, letting in only 29, a rate of fewer than one per game which gives them the joint 5th best defence in J1.
Oita come into this game seemingly in holiday mode and are actually a better team on the road than they are at home with 22 of their 43 league points won away from the Oita Dome against just 21 won at home. They were comfortably defeated by title challengers FC Tokyo last week while Gamba easily saw off struggling Shonan, 3-0 still I’m not sure how much we can read into those results. My heart says Gamba will keep up their decent form and edge a hard fought clash 2-0, but I’m very wary of making positive predictions for this Gamba side away from home so I’ll opt for a 1-1 draw and hope to be proven wrong.
Predicted Gamba Line-up:
GK 1 Masaaki Higashiguchi (33 years old)
CB 13 Shunya Suganuma (29)
CB 5 Genta Miura (C) (24)
CB 19 Kim Young-gwon (29)
RWB 8 Kosuke Onose (26)
LWB 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (30)
DM 7 Yasuhito Endo (39)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23)
CM 21 Shinya Yajima (25)
CF 33 Ademilson (25)
CF 33 Takashi Usami (27)
Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23), 27 Ryu Takao (CB/RB22), 29 Leo Takae (CM/AM/21), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31), 34 Yuya Fukuda (RWB/LWB/20), 18 Patric (CF/31), 39 Kazuma Watanabe (CF/33)
Oita Trinita (8th) vs Gamba Osaka (9th)