Nagoya Grampus vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 3
Wednesday 8 July 19:30 (JST)
It’s the first midweek round of J1 2020 as Gamba make the short trip east to Aichi to face old nemesis Nagoya Grampus. Hopefully this preview gives you all the information you’re looking for ahead of this clash between two of Japan’s traditional heavyweights.
Last Time Out
Gamba succumbed to a tame 2-1 home loss in the Osaka derby against Cerezo last Saturday. The Cherry Blossoms had the better of the first 45 minutes and eventually took the lead in the 2nd minute of additional time at the end of the half as Hiroaki Okuno turned in left-back Yusuke Maruhashi’s cut back. Shooting towards the traditional home end at Panasonic Stadium, Gamba started the second period brighter, but they were stunned by Maruhashi’s thunderbolt from well outside the box and from there it was always going to be a tough ask to take anything from the game. Yasuki Kimoto’s deliberate handball gave the Nerrazzuri a glimmer of hope as it allowed a cool Ademilson to pull one goal back from the penalty spot. However, after that the game rather petered out and Gamba can’t really have any complaints about taking nothing from the clash.
Nagoya were also involved in a 2-1 away win, though in their case they were the beneficiaries, coming from behind to down Shimizu S-Pulse in wet and windy conditions in Shizuoka. An error in midfield by Brazilian Joao Schmidt was seized upon by Yusuke Goto, he then teed up right winger Shota Kaneko whose well executed shot gave S-Pulse an early lead. Grampus, however, were in front by half-time, Joao Schmidt brought out a wonderful double save from debutant ‘keeper Togo Umeda before Yuki Soma fired home from close range to level things up. Eight minutes later, a powerful run down the right by Naoki Maeda resulted in a cross that Brazilian centre-back Valdo turned into his own net. There were no further goals in the second half, though Nagoya did see young right-back Shumpei Naruse stretchered off with a leg injury and then winger Yuki Soma ruined his impressive display in the final minute of additional time by picking up a second yellow card.
These two have played each other four times in the league since Nagoya returned to J1 in 2018, the men from Aichi have won three of these clashes 3-2 with the other match ending in a 2-2 draw. It should also be noted that Gamba and Grampus have faced off in the early rounds in each of the past two campaigns (both at Panasonic Stadium), round 1 in 2018 where strikes from the Brazilian trio of Gabriel Xavier, Rocha and Jo saw Nagoya get their return to J1 off to a flier by cancelling out efforts by Yasuhito Endo and Shun Nagasawa, and in round 3 of 2019 where a late own goal by Hiroki Fujiharu saw the men in red eventually take the three points after being pegged back twice.
In games played at Toyota Stadium, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto tasted defeat for the first time as Gamba head-coach in the third match of his reign back in August 2018. A dramatic encounter started with Gamba racing into a two-goal lead thanks to an Ademilson penalty and a Jungo Fujimoto effort, but they were denied thanks to a brilliant 23 minute second-half hat-trick by Jo. Last year saw Gamba take their first point off Grampus since the latter returned from a one year sabbatical in J2, Takashi Usami netted his first goal in his third spell in Suita in the 91st minute after Naoki Maeda and Kazuya Miyahara had erased the damage done by Ademilson’s fine early effort.
Defensively Nagoya are set up exactly the same way as Cerezo with a flat back four being protected by two holding midfielders. In attack things are slightly different with three attacking midfielders supporting a lone striker. One key point is that the front four of Nagoya this season has been made up exclusively of players who’ve spent the bulk of their playing careers as wide midfielders. Loan returnees Mateus and Yuki Soma have lined up on the right and left-flanks respectively, though they can switch when necessary while Naoki Maeda has played as a centre-forward supported by ex-Gamba winger Hiroyuki Abe.
The majority of Grampus’ dangerous chances against S-Pulse were created from the wings, both of their goals were the result of crosses from the right and I’ve marked down Brazilian speedster Mateus as the man Gamba really must stop on Wednesday night. Gamba were vulnerable up the middle and against the counter attack against Cerezo, but I feel they can cope better with Nagoya’s attack if it is concentrated in wide areas. One option for the Toyota men is to bring in the tall Ryogo Yamasaki to see if he can cause the same types of problems for the Gamba rearguard that Ken Tokura did last week, though in reality I think we are more likely to see Mu Kanazaki play up top supported by Maeda, Abe and Mateus with Soma suspended.
Gamba’s inability to properly protect their centre-backs was exposed at times by Cerezo last weekend and it’ll be interesting to see what changes, if any, Miyamoto makes for this game. I’m of the mind that it’s the structure of the side rather than the personnel that is holding them back. Playing the more physical Patric ahead of Ademilson could be a tactic that is employed for this one, it’s also possible that Ideguchi and Yamamoto will form a double Volante as they did in the closing minutes of the derby with Shu Kurata playing just ahead of them. Nagoya could be vulnerable at the full-back position so we may see the fit-again Yuya Fukuda, fresh from a cameo against Cerezo U-23 in J3 play down the left side.
Attacking midfielder Yuji Ono fractured a bone in his face against Cerezo and is out, Gen Shoji is still highly doubtful with a foot / ankle problem while backup ‘keeper Jun Ichimori (dislocated shoulder) is due back in September at the earliest. As noted above, Yuya Fukuda is fully fit again and could feature, also with two away games coming up in close succession we may see some more youngsters get a chance, Keisuke Kurokawa got 45 minutes at left wing-back against Cerezo U-23 and Ren Shibamoto (highly touted by me on the J-Talk Pod a few weeks back) seems to have been promoted to the top team. There has been no word on Ryo Shinzato or Oh Jae-suk (linked with a move to FC Seoul), neither of them made the bench against Cerezo while Yasuhito Endo is unlikely to start as a result of the packed schedule.
The much maligned attacking midfielder Aria Jasuru Hasegawa is a long-term injury for Grampus. Shumpei Naruse hurt his leg last week and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out while fellow right-back Kazuya Miyahara, Nagoya’s first choice for the past 3 seasons hasn’t featured at all in 2020 though I’m not sure if that’s down to injury or Italian coach Massimo Ficcadenti not rating him. Dangerous wide-man Yuki Soma misses out through suspension after his red-card against S-Pulse and versatile midfielder Ryota Aoki is being eased back to full fitness after missing the entire 2019 campaign.
Know Your Opponent – Nagoya Grampus
GK – #1 Mitch Langerak – 8-times capped Australian stopper who has been Grampus’ first choice since joining from Levante in Spain ahead of the 2018 season. The 193cm giant overcame a bout of asymptomatic COVID-19 to take his place between the sticks against Shimizu last Saturday and put in a commanding display. He’s one of the best in J1 and judging by his appearance on the recent JLeague Interview series, he’s a thoroughly decent bloke too.
RB – #23 Yutaka Yoshida – More normally a left-back, the short but bullish Yoshida may have to play on the right in this game to cover injuries. He was given a torrid afternoon in a 3-0 Gamba win at home to Tosu back in 2018 and the Nerrazzuri may target the former Kofu and Shimizu man on Wednesday.
CB – #4 Shinnosuke Nakatani – Kashiwa Reysol youth product whose reputation has declined a bit owing to playing in a team known for the odd case of shoddy defending since he moved to Nagoya from Chiba in mid-2018. He’s scored once in 53 J1 games for Grampus.
CB – #3 Yuichi Maruyama © – Highly experienced club captain who was brought on board along with Nakatani in Grampus’ mid-2018 spending spree which saw them just avoid an immediate return to J2. The ex-FC Tokyo and twice capped Japanese international should provide a calming influence at the back.
LB – #14 Yosuke Akiyama – After spending the second half of last year loaned out to Jubilo Iwata, Akiyama seems to be back in favour again under Ficcadenti. He replaced the injured Naruse against S-Pulse and didn’t let anyone down in his 16 minutes on the field.
DM – #15 Sho Inagaki – His signing from Sanfrecce Hiroshima last winter may not have gained too many column inches, but getting in a holding midfielder who’d scored 7 times in 57 appearances playing for a much stronger team in the previous two years represents something of a coup for Nagoya. He will provide protection for his centre-backs while also being a danger with his long range efforts when given the chance.
DM – #8 Joao Schmidt – Definitely one of Grampus’ better players during a tough 2019 season, I’m still not sure how much Ficcadenti rates him and wonder if it’s he or Takuji Yonemoto who’ll win out in the battle to partner Inagaki. He had his pocket picked by Shimizu’s Yusuke Goto in the lead up to their solitary goal on Saturday, but atoned for his error by stretching S-Pulse ‘keeper Togo Umeda twice with powerful headers before Yuki Soma’s equaliser. The left-footer was later replaced by Yonemoto on the hour mark.
RW – #16 Mateus – Back in Aichi after a highly successful loan spell at Yokohama F.Marinos last year (why he was loaned out in the first place is another question), the one-time Omiya winger is full of confidence and represents Nagoya’s greatest threat in this clash. His pace is a real asset and it was his cross from the right which eventually led to Grampus’ first goal against S-Pulse
AM – #11 Hiroyuki Abe – Another winter capture, Abe is a three-time J1 winner, of course with Gamba back in 2014 and also with Kawasaki in 2017 and 2018. During his time in Osaka I never felt he was technically as good as his positional rivals Shu Kurata and Kotaro Omori, however, he does have a real knack of finding the back of the net, scoring 39 times in 187 J1 games to date.
LW – #25 Naoki Maeda – I watched him a lot when he played for Yokohama F.Marinos and always thought he offered much more in the way of style over substance. He’s certainly proved me wrong since his mid-2018 move from Matsumoto Yamaga, bagging 16 goals in 49 J1 games. He’s assumed the unfamiliar role of centre-forward due to the departure of Jo, and Kanazaki’s illness, but I’d expect him to revert to his more natural attacking midfield position from now on.
CF – #44 Mu Kanazaki – After leaving cash-strapped Tosu in a loan moved designed to get him off the wage bill back in March, former international Kanazaki found himself hospitalised with COVID-19. He now appears to have made a full recovery as evidenced by his 30 minute appearance in Shizuoka and should provide a decent alternative to Maeda up front.
Other options – Grampus have given us a good idea of who their core starters will be this year with consistent selection in all three matches to date, that said, the 2020 J1 schedule is a gruelling one and we can expect some rotation to take place. Kazuya Miyahara and Kosuke Ota are both options at right-back, though neither has featured at all this year, it’s unclear whether this is due to injury or not. Experienced former FC Tokyo defensive midfielder Takuji Yonemoto started ahead of Joao Schmidt against Kashima and Sendai in February and could come back in for this match. Further forward, mercurial Brazilian Gabriel Xavier doesn’t appear to be flavour of the month with Ficcadenti, but could be a decent bench option while the powerful Ryogo Yamasaki brings a physical presence to the attack, even if his J1 stats don’t quite match his J2 ones.
Predicted Line Ups
It’s difficult to know how much player rotation will take place in these early rounds of J1 2020 so I’ll base my prediction on recent history. Gamba have struggled for form early on in previous campaigns and have tended to catch Nagoya at the worst possible time, both teams of course being known for extreme spells of good and bad form. This year’s away game will a close fought encounter which I’m sorry to say I think will see the home side end up as 2-1 winners.