Oita Trinita vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 23
Showa Denko Dome Oita
Sunday 18 October 14:00 (JST)
Last Time Out
Gamba were held to a 1-1 draw by Yokohama F.Marinos on Wednesday night, their first home tie of the year. It marked the end of a run of 6 straight wins, but does now mean they are currently 7 matches unbeaten. Results elsewhere saw the Nerazzurri drop down to 5th in the standings, behind Nagoya on goal difference, however, there were certainly plenty of positives to take from a strong display against last year’s champions.
Gamba kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto opted for just a solitary change to the starting eleven from the match with FC Tokyo on Saturday. Kosuke Onose came in for Ademilson, a move that saw Takashi Usami return to his more familiar role as a centre-forward. The continuity in selection allowed Gamba to start well and their high press put Marinos under pressure early on, as it had done in the away fixture back in February. Despite this, around the 20 minute mark Yokohama started to look more and more dangerous. First, Masaaki Higashiguchi had to get down well to his right to divert a Marcos Junior header to safety before both Junior Santos and Erik saw goalbound shots blocked by desperate Gamba lunges. Up the other end Patric knocked down a Higashiguchi long-ball for strike-partner Usami who easily went past Makito Ito before Yuji Kajikawa in the away goal tipped his shot wide for a corner. A mere minute later, however, and the home side trailed after a rather unfortunate own goal. Erik dispossessed Yuki Yamamoto in midfield and the ball broke for his compatriot Marcos Junior, the duo exchanged passes before Marcos shot at Higashiguchi from close range. Gamba’s number one got a leg to it but couldn’t prevent the ball from flying up and onto the face of the back-tracking Kim Young-gwon and from there it landed in the back of the net. Gamba left with an uphill battle ahead against tough opposition.
The following quarter of an hour saw something of a lull in proceedings with decent play from both sides, but little in the way of chances. Gamba broke the drought in the 41st minute when Onose played in the onrushing Takao and his shot into the side-netting was somewhat surprisingly given as a corner. Usami’s set piece was powerfully met by Patric, but Kajikawa again produced an excellent stop to keep the home team at bay. Unfortunately for Kajikawa, his side wouldn’t hold onto their lead for long as in the final minute of the first half a long ball from Ideguchi found Usami who knocked the ball past the Marinos ‘keeper, I’m not sure how strong the contact was, but Usami was flying and Kajikawa threw an arm out that caught Gamba’s number 33 in the stomach, he fell and the referee pointed to the spot. The former Bayern man dusted himself off and sent Kajikawa the wrong way for his 5th goal of the year. This decision and a subsequent one to award Gamba a throw in on half way clearly angered Ange Postecoglou and he was a lucky man that the 4th official was not a native English speaker as the DAZN highlights caught him giving out a verbal volley that would surely have seen him sent to the stands in say the A League or the EPL.
No further goals followed in the second half, but a pretty decent football game broke out. I’d go as far to call this Gamba’s best second half display of 2020, they spent most of it on the front foot, though they did fail to create that one killer chance to win the game. A clearly exhausted Marinos stuck to their task gamefully and probably had the best chance of the half when Shinnosuke Hatanaka shot wide from 6 yards out after good build up play involving Marcos Junior, Ryuta Koike and Erik. Positives for Gamba would be the second half displays of full-backs Takao and Fukuda, plus Yamamoto in midfield, while there were concerns when Gen Shoji appeared to aggravate his long standing ankle problem on the hour mark, but he did manage to soldier on to the end. All in all 1-1 probably doesn’t really suit either side, but for Gamba, 4 points from 2 games this year against Marinos and only 2 goals conceded represents a serious improvement from last season.
Oita played out a 1-1 draw away to an under-strength Vissel Kobe on Wednesday night. This is the second time this year that the sides have been tied at one apiece and both matches have immediately preceded Trinita’s fixtures with Gamba. Former Oita hitman Noriaki Fujimoto beat Mun Kyung-gun with a looping header from Keijiro Ogawa’s chipped through ball in the 6th minute to give Vissel the lead, but Trinita earned a share of the spoils when Gotoku Sakai turned Tomoki Iwata’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Yuya Takazawa 4 minutes from the end of normal time.
5th placed Gamba travel to Kyushu this weekend to face off against an Oita Trinita outfit who currently find themselves sitting in 12th place in the standings, 13 points behind their visitors with a game more played. The blue and black half of Osaka have enjoyed an outstanding run of away form this year with 26 points from 11 games giving them the 2nd best road record in J1 after champions-elect Kawasaki. This represents quite a turnaround for Gamba who collected 26 points in total from all 17 away games in 2017 and mustered a mere 34 points outside of Suita across the 2018 and 2019 seasons, they could conceivably beat that combined tally this year.
As noted in the Yokohama F.Marinos preview last week, a major factor in Gamba’s improvement has been their tighter defence. The Nerazzurri have only conceded a maximum of one goal per game across the last 8 matches while they’ve only let in more than one away from home twice in J1 this season (Nagoya 2-2 and Kashiwa 0-3). By way of contrast, Oita’s defence has lost some of it’s stability this year and that has been a key factor in them slipping from 9th in 2019 (behind Gamba only on goal difference) to 12th this campaign. Their attack has actually marginally improved year on year, averaging 1.13 goals per game this term versus 1.01 a year ago, but at the back their 34 goals against this campaign is only 1 shy of 2019’s total despite playing 11 fewer matches to date. Additionally, they only conceded more than twice on two occasions in 2019, both away from home (FC Tokyo and Kawasaki – both 1-3), however, this time round they’ve shipped over 2 goals in a game 4 times, including twice in their own Showa Denko Dome.
At home Trinita have taken 15 points from their 11 matches so far, a total that is only one short of Gamba with an identical number of games played. Their results have been something of a mixed bag with 4 wins, Tosu (2-0), Shimizu (2-1) Marinos and Yokohama FC (1-0), 3 draws Shonan (2-2), Kobe (1-1), Kashiwa (0-0), and 4 defeats Kashima (4-1), Nagoya (3-0), Hiroshima (2-0), FC Tokyo (1-0). The Kyushu-based side could technically catch Vissel Kobe ahead of them if they win their games in hand and they are in a better run of form now (17 points from the past 9 matches) than at the beginning of the year when they opened up by taking only 12 points from their first 14 games.
Oita have used 31 players so far this term as opposed to Gamba’s 24 and I have my doubts as to how much depth they really possess outside their first choice starting eleven, however, I have identified a few talents to look out for on Sunday night. Naturally first is Mr Trinita himself, captain and centre-back Yoshinori Suzuki, who was last missing from an Oita league starting lineup way back on 31st May 2015, a 2-1 away defeat to Giravanz Kitakyushu in J2 (thanks Transfermarkt!) To Suzuki’s right is Tomoki Iwata, a player similar in style to Ryu Takao, regular readers may remember I bigged him up ahead of the match at Panasonic Stadium, only for him to concede a penalty with a rash tackle. Further forward, versatile former Gamba man Tatsuya Tanaka is Trinita’s top scorer this year with 7 goals, he can play in either wing-back position or what I believe the Japanese commentators call the ‘shadow’ position just off the main striker.
For Gamba, Takashi Usami will be looking to score against Oita for the third match running and his good friend in midfield Yosuke Ideguchi has been in sparkling form this year, his closing down against Marinos on Wednesday was a joy to watch. Finally, it will be interesting to contrast the aforementioned Ryu Takao with his opposite number Tomoki Iwata. Takao, for me, has been the most improved player in Gamba’s squad this year and has already outshone Ryosuke Shindo of Sapporo, another player who could be considered similar in style, so I’m keenly anticipating comparing the performances of Takao and Iwata in this encounter.
Head to Head
Between 2010-2018 these two were in different divisions so we don’t have a whole lot to cover in this section. Gamba defeated Trinita 2-1 at Panasonic Stadium in round 5 back in July, a penalty from Takashi Usami and a fine finish by Ademilson overturned Daiki Watari’s powerful header against the run of play for the visitors. In the corresponding match last year a flowing Gamba move was finished expertly by Usami to give the Nerazzurri an early lead, but efforts from Kazushi Mitsuhira and Tomoki Iwata reversed things in the home side’s favour. That would turn out to be Gamba’s final league defeat of 2019 as they went on to see off Sendai (2-0), Matsumoto (4-1) and Urawa (3-2) in their remaining fixtures.
Gamba have a few concerns at the back with captain Genta Miura out with a thigh muscle injury and Gen Shoji looking to have aggravated his long-standing ankle problem against Marinos on Wednesday. Shoji received treatment on the hour mark and played on, but it remains to see if he will be selected for this clash, Shunya Suganuma and Ryo Shinzato stand ready to deputise if required. Left-back Hiroki Fujiharu has been out of the matchday squad for the past 2 games, though no injury has yet been reported, while Yuji Ono will miss the rest of 2020 after undergoing knee surgery.
Trinita have a number of players currently unavailable for selection, holding midfielder Ryosuke Maeda sprained his ankle against Hiroshima on September 23rd while wing-back Yuki Kagawa damaged his hamstring a week earlier. Experienced midfielder Yuki Kobayashi hasn’t featured since being subbed early in the second half of Oita’s 2-1 defeat by Gamba at Panasonic Stadium on July 18th and his namesake Seigo, more of a squad player, broke his foot at the end of September. Utility man Kaoru Takayama hasn’t been seen since the 2-0 defeat at home to Hiroshima last month with no injury yet reported and last year’s key assist maker Kazuki Kozuka has been in and out of the side in 2020, I’m assuming this is down to fitness concerns.
Predicted Line Ups
This is the last in a tough stretch of 5 games in 15 days before the schedule becomes noticeably more gentle in the coming weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see if Miyamoto tries to shake one last big performance out of the main starters or re-jigs things a little. I’ve assumed that Fujiharu will sit this one out and that Yamamoto is now above Yajima in the pecking order. As usual we’re most likely to see rotation in the forward line with any combination of Usami, Patric, Ademilson or Watanabe possible.
I have no doubts that Trinita will line up in their usual 3-4-2-1 formation and the back three of Iwata, Suzuki and Misao will be key for them as they lack sufficient depth in that position. Similar to Gamba, it is in the attacking areas where we may see some changes. Centre-forward Kei Chinen and ‘shadow’ players Daiki Watari, Kazuki Kozuka or Kazushi Mitsuhira could start and at wing-back it’s possible we’ll see either or both Rei Matsumoto or Yuji Hoshi come in to give someone a breather.
Kyushu is not usually a happy hunting ground for Gamba, but their away form has been brilliant this year. The Nerazzurri have the clear goal of qualifying for both this year’s Emperor’s Cup and next campaign’s Asian Champions League to motivate them while Trinita merely have pride and contracts for next year to occupy their thoughts. As such, I’m going to continue with my positive predicting and say Gamba will run out 2-1 winners in a tightly fought contest.