Gamba Osaka (9th) vs Matsumoto Yamaga F.C. (17th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 33
30 November 2019 at 14:00 JST
Panasonic Stadium Suita
It’s Gamba’s final home game of the season on Saturday as relegation strugglers Matsumoto Yamaga make their first ever league visit to Panasonic Stadium Suita. Second half strikes from attacking duo Takashi Usami and Ademilson saw Gamba overcome a dogged Vegalta Sendai at home last week while Yamaga went down 1-0 in Nagano against championship chasers Yokohama F.Marinos.
A win for Gamba could see them overtake 8th place Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo who currently sit just 2 points ahead of them in the standings and travel to Kyushu to face Sagan Tosu on Saturday. Matsumoto are in second last place on the ladder with 30 points from 32 games which puts them a mere 2 points ahead of bottom club Jubilo Iwata and 2 behind 16th place Shonan Bellmare who they face at home in their final league game on December 7th. Essentially they need to win this week and next to drag themselves into the relegation play-off spot and then take their chances in a one-off match at home to Omiya/Tokushima/Kofu/ Yamagata if they want to survive.
Gamba have upped their goalscoring output from 41 in 34 J1 games last year to 47 in just 32 so far this campaign. Additionally in 2018, Korean hitman Hwang Ui-jo netted 39% of Gamba’s league goals (16 of 41), while things have been much more evenly spread this time round with Ademilson in first place in the scoring charts, having found the back of the net 8 times in J1 (17%). There have also been strong midfield contributions from Shu Kurata (7 goals) and Kosuke Onose (6) as well as returning hero Takashi Usami scoring at a rate of one goal every two games (6 in 12) since coming back from Germany in the summer.
On the other hand, the main stats you need to know about Matsumoto are that they’ve scored just 19 times in 32 J1 matches (0.59 per game), the worst goalscoring record in the league by far (Jubilo are 17th with 26 goals) and their top scorer this year is forward Ryo Nagai who has just 3 league goals to his name in addition to 3 assists. Yamaga’s style of play under head-coach Yasuharu Sorimachi can certainly be described as ultra defensive, though it could also be argued that due to financial constraints he was unable to bring in the players necessary to play a more expansive brand of football. The men in green and white started the season promisingly, but have been near the foot of the table for the majority of the year. Their mid-season transfer dealings, which could have seen them aim for a push up the table instead seemed to have the opposite effect and this has greatly hindered their chances of survival. Both of their main attacking threats from the first part of the season departed, the pacy Daizen Maeda (Maritimo) and Brazilian giant Leandro Pereira (Sanfrecce Hiroshima on loan, in exchange for Hiroki Mizumoto). The second of the two transfers makes little sense in hindsight as Mizumoto, although doing well, essentially only strengthened an already decent defence whereas Pereira’s exit weakened an already weak attack. Other summer arrivals were J2 attacker Toyofumi Sakano from Montedio Yamagata (1 goal in 12 games), full-back / midfielder Masaki Yamamoto on loan from JEF United (1 sub appearance), left-back Toshiya Takagi from Kashiwa Reysol (1 sub appearance) and Portuguese/Guinea-Bissau striker Isma (a bit of a footballing nomad, he last played in Iran) who only managed his debut off the bench last week.
Gamba defeated Matsumoto 3-1 in the reverse fixture back in June with Hwang Ui-jo opening the scoring to send Gamba into the break ahead. Masaki Iida headed Yamaga level early in the second half before a fine Shu Kurata strike put Gamba back in front 3 minutes later and Hwang got his second of the game late on to seal the deal. Indeed the half-time score in this game could be crucial, Matsumoto are yet to lose when they’ve been ahead at half-time this year (6 games) while Gamba are yet to win when they’ve been behind (2 draws and 7 losses). It should also be noted that 8 of Gamba’s 10 wins so far in 2019 have come after they were level at the halfway point, so they panic button is unlikely to be pressed if they don’t find an early goal against Yamaga’s miserly defence.
Gamba’s win over Sendai last week improved their home league record to 24 points from 16 games and extended their home league unbeaten run to 12 matches (6 wins and 6 draws), they currently have the 8th best home league record in 2019. Matsumoto’s counter attacking style has had slightly more success on the road than in Nagano, 17 of their 30 points and 4 of their 6 wins this year have come away from home. They last won at home in the league on April 20 (1-0 against Sagan Tosu), but since then they have defeated Nagoya (1-0), Urawa (2-1) and most recently Sendai (1-0) on their travels. With all that said, they still only have the 15th best away record in J1 and unsurprisingly have scored the least amount of goals on opposition turf this season (10 in 16 games).
Shu Kurata’s return from injury off the bench against Sendai last weekend means that Gamba have a fully fit squad to choose from for this encounter. Following the convincing second half display in the Vegalta game, changes are likely to be at a premium. I’d say the only possible switch would be Kurata returning to the starting line up at the expense of either Yajima or Endo. At almost 40, Gamba’s number 7 looked a bit leggy last week and may be in need of a break, so I’ll say he’ll be the one to make way allowing the younger Yajima to provide a bit more cover in front of a back 3 that was a little exposed at times during the first half of last week’s clash.
Matsumoto generally line up in the same 3-5-2 formation as Gamba (they did start the season playing 3-4-2-1) and have a core of about 15-16 players who play regularly. In goal will be the 191cm Tatsuya Morita, the man who replaced Masaaki Higashiguchi in Niigata. He will be behind a vastly experienced back 3 of; on-loan Sanfrecce Hiroshima veteran Hiroki Mizumoto (34 years old), the long-serving Masaki Iida (34), who scored in the home match against Gamba and the popular Yuya Hashiuchi (32). Former Nagoya and Shonan wide-man Ryo Takahashi will likely be at left wing-back having played 30 times already this season and last week saw veteran Hayuma Tanaka (37) play down the right side, he’ll make his 418th J1 appearance if selected for this one. In the midfield triangle, the diminutive Ibuki Fujita will sit at the base and it’s likely to be ex-Kashima Antlers attacking midfielder Taro Sugimoto, possessor of a fierce right-footed shot (that Cerezo know all about) and Yuzo Iwakami playing just ahead of him. Top scorer Ryo Nagai was partnered in attack last week by summer signing Toyofumi Sakano, although another mid-season acquisition, the Bissau-Guinean international Isma debuted off the bench and could earn himself a starting berth this week. Other possible options include; 30 year-old Brazilian defensive midfielder Paulinho and attacking midfielder Keiya Nakami, formerly of Sagan Tosu. Brazilians; attacker Serginho and defender Eduardo are currently sidelined through injury, as is former JEF United attacking midfielder Yamato Machida.
Gamba have nothing but pride to play for this week and Matsumoto are battling to save their J1 skins so it would be prudent to give them some shot at a positive result. However, I feel that the current Usami and Ideguchi inspired Gamba will have just a bit too much in the tank for the defensive Yamaga and will prevail in a tight game, winning 1-0 with Usami again netting the decisive goal that could potentially confine Matsumoto to J2 for 2020.
Predicted Gamba Line-up:
GK 1 Masaaki Higashiguchi (33 years old/32 J1 apps in 2019 / 0 goals / 1 assist)
CB 13 Shunya Suganuma (29/13/0/1)
CB 5 Genta Miura (C) (24/29/1/0)
CB 19 Kim Young-gwon (29/30/1/0)
RWB 8 Kosuke Onose (26/28/6/4)
LWB 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (31/15/2/3)
DM 21 Shinya Yajima (25/25/1/3)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23/11/0/0)
CM 8 Shu Kurata (31/29/7/1)
CF 33 Ademilson (25/30/8/6)
CF 33 Takashi Usami (27/12/6/1)
Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23/0/0/0), 27 Ryu Takao (CB/RWB/23/18/0/0), 34 Yuya Fukuda (RWB/LWB/20/15/0/0) 7 Yasuhito Endo (CM/39/26/1/5), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31/5/0/0), 18 Patric (CF/31/11/2/1), 39 Kazuma Watanabe (CF/33/17/3/0)
Gamba Osaka (9th) vs Matsumoto Yamaga F.C. (17th)