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Kashima Antlers vs Gamba Osaka 5 November 2022 Match Preview

Kashima Antlers vs Gamba Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 34
Saturday 5 November 2022
Kashima Soccer Stadium
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)

The 2022 J1 season finishes just the way it started for both Kashima and Gamba with a clash against one another. This will be the fifth meeting of the two this calendar year and Antlers currently boast a perfect record of played 4, won 4. The Stags can still mathematically end up 3rd on the ladder after doing Gamba a massive favour in seeing off Shimuzu at the Nihondaira last weekend, their first win in the league since mid-August. The Nerazzurri meanwhile also defeated Shizuoka-based opponents last Saturday, relegating troubled Júbilo Iwata after a 2-0 home victory which came courtesy of second-half strikes from substitutes Ryotaro Meshino and Patric. All in all, the round 33 results went as well as could realistically have been expected from a Gamba perspective, though they are by no means out of the woods yet. Victory at the Kashima Soccer Stadium for the first time since 2016 secures J1 football for 2023, anything less leaves them anxiously looking over their shoulders hoping for Kyoto and S-Pulse to slip up. So, there you have it, the final week of the season promises to be dramatic at both ends of the table, which one of these two traditional heavyweights will have their hand raised in victory at the end of this titanic tussle?

Tale of the Tape



Last Saturday saw the first home win of the Matsuda-era and the first at Panasonic Stadium since another 2-0, against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, way back on 29 June. The interceding run of 7 games saw 3 draws and 4 defeats with the late, late points ceded to Cerezo, Urawa and Kyoto really hurting the Nerazzurri right now. Gamba are W4D2L3 under Matsuda, giving them an average of 1.56 points per game which, if projected over the course of a whole season, would see them currently tied with Saturday’s opponents Kashima and prefectural rivals Cerezo on 51 (I know, I know, it’s only been just under a 1/3 of a season and many opposition teams have been in cruise control, but it’s a stat that deserves to be commended nonetheless). The win over Júbilo was the Ao to Kuro’s 2nd 2-0 victory on the spin and also their 2nd time in a row recording an xG for total of over 1. It’s worth noting that at the other end there’s only been 1 sub xG against figure during the Matsuda-era (at Nagoya) while 3 matches have seen opponents record tallies over 2. Despite this, the Nerazzurri have kept 6 clean sheets in Matsuda’s 9 games in charge and are presently on a run of only conceding 1 goal from open play in their last 5 outings, with that coming in the hugely controversial VAR-inspired shambles at Kobe, so make of that what you will. In Matsuda’s case (and more on this later in the ‘Gamba Osaka’ section), is it better to be a lucky manager than a good one (think about Yasuhito Endo’s miss early in the second half on Saturday if you require further food for thought)?

Takashi Usami’s return has certainly sparked Gamba’s attack in recent weeks in conjunction with Yuki Yamamoto coming back from injury and the inspired acquisition of Juan Alano in the summer. Brazilian volante Dawhan had fallen away after a bright start to his Nerazzurri career, but he has been a colossus in the past 2 games, completing 44 of 55 passes attempted against Júbilo, including 1 last pass, while central-midfield partner Yamamoto made 42 of 58 with 2 last passes that brought him 1 assist (Meshino’s opener). At the other end, ‘guardian deity’ Masaaki Higashiguchi wasn’t nearly as busy as in the previous 2 games, and was actually almost the architect of the Nerazzurri’s downfall with an uncharacteristic first-half error that he redeemed in typical fashion. He made 5 saves in total, including decent blocks from Kenyu Sugimoto and Shota Kaneko late on to preserve Gamba’s 2 goal advantage. As I near the end of this section I just want to dwell on that phrase ‘2 goal advantage.’ Meshino and Patric both struck within the space of 7 second-half minutes to put the Ao to Kuro on easy street and crush Jubilo’s spirit, however, they were unable to double their lead against Urawa, Kyoto and Cerezo and paid a dear, dear price for that. They simply can’t afford to let a side as steely as Kashima off the hook, and they know it. To that end, we’ll likely see a return to the game-plan that worked to a tee against Marinos, a fully fit Patric should be restored to the starting eleven and fellow goal-scorer last Saturday, Ryotaro Meshino, could take the place of Kosuke Onose whose first-half miss versus Iwata has to be seen to be believed while his performance as a whole was underwhelming to say the least. Gamba are yet to win 3 in-a-row in 2022, on the back of 2 vastly different 2-0 triumphs, can they do it when it matters most this Saturday?



Kashima raced out of the blocks this year, picking up 9 wins and 29 points from their opening 13 league fixtures which had myself and many others putting them on a pedestal alongside title challengers Marinos and Frontale. Subsequently their form has taken something of a nose-dive and they’ve tasted victory on just 4 occasions in a little under 6 months since those halcyon early season days. A rather shocking, from their point of view, 12 failures to record an xG for total over 1 in their most recent 20 outings in the wake of Ayase Ueda’s departure for Europe has damaged their ACL aspirations badly, though thanks to others’ inconsistencies over the course of the season, they still enter the final matchday in 5th, trailing 3rd placed Hiroshima by 3 points and Cerezo in 4th by only goal difference. The most telling stat I could dig up about Antlers is that their xG difference per 90 minutes has dropped by a whopping 0.67 since 2021 (from +0.57 to -0.10). They’ve managed to avoid the worst effects that such a collapse could precipitate by out-performing their attacking xG number by 9.05 goals this term, while at the back xG against and actual goals conceded were relatively consistent. Though it seems like they’ve been out of form for ages, and a cursory glance through results and statistical performances show that to indeed have been the case, some decent showings from several of their attackers have helped them keep their heads not just above water, but swimming in the general direction of the ACL spots. Forever controversial, and also highly effective, Yuma Suzuki has marked his return to Japanese football with 7 goals and 9 assists in J1 while under-utilised Brazilian Arthur Caike (who I’d love to see follow Juan Alano on the trail from Ibaraki to Suita) has bagged 9 goals and 3 assists to relieve some of the burden of Ueda’s mid-season departure and Everaldo’s ongoing struggle to recapture his 2020 form. Further back, the one who got away (from a Gamba perspective), Yuta Higuchi sits on 2 goals and a career-high 8 assists for the year, and as if to rub salt into the Nerazzurri’s gaping wounds, provided 4 assists in one game during a Levain Cup group stage tie between Antlers and the Ao to Kuro. Former defensive stalwart Daiki Iwamasa is the current incumbent of the hottest of hot seats at the Kashima Soccer Stadium and though the Stags are generally thought of as a 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2 side, he has experimented at times this campaign. I fancy him to stick with the 4-3-3 that was successful at S-Pulse last week and allows the holy trinity of Kento Misao, Diego Pituca and Yuta Higuchi to form a formidable midfield trio, something that hasn’t happened nearly enough in 2022 in this writer’s humble opinion.



First Match Recap

All hell broke loose when these two met at a rainy Panasonic Stadium back in round 1. Still reeling from their pre-season Covid outbreak, Gamba’s backline had a makeshift feel to it and Ayase Ueda made them pay in the 20th minute, racing onto a through ball and burying his shot past Nerazzurri 3rd choice ‘keeper Kei Ishikawa. The visitors’ lead lasted a mere 6 minutes before they failed to properly deal with a corner and Kosuke Onose fired in a fine half-volley. However, Antlers were back in front on the half-hour mark with Yuma Suzuki punishing slack Gamba passing in their own defensive third. It would not be Suzuki’s last significant contribution of the afternoon though, as less than 10 minutes later he and Patric clashed while contesting a loose ball and Kashima’s number 40 fell to the ground clutching his face. The referee immediately brandished a red-card and despite replays clearly showing Patric and Suzuki were both worthy of yellow cards, and a red was certainly not warranted in the Brazilian’s case, a technicality in VAR (which needs to be ironed out before the 2023 season kicks off) meant that the Nerazzurri had to play out the rest of the match down to 10 men. Shots rained in from the Stags in the wake of that hugely controversial decision and the woodwork was struck on several occasions while Ishikawa acquitted himself well in trying circumstances and the Ao to Kuro even briefly threatened an equaliser through Usami and Kurata. It was simply not Gamba’s afternoon and lovely Kashima passing and movement led up to Ayase Ueda’s clincher midway through the second half. It appeared back then in February as if Ryotaro Araki was set to continue where he left off in 2021, unfortunately it was not to be for the youngster. On the day, it certainly was to be for his Antlers side though as they ran out 3-1 winners and, social media scrutiny of Suzuki’s shenanigans not withstanding, got their campaign off to the perfect start.



Gamba Osaka


Mood in the camp – It’s certainly lighter than it’s been in recent weeks, but there’s a strong sense that any kind of slip up in what is an extremely tough final day fixture at Kashima could see the house of cards come crashing down. Gamba have transformed from a team that finished top 4 in J1 10 times between 2002 and 2016 to a side that, from 2017 onwards, has spent a considerable amount of time each year being amongst the worst performers in the league (2020 excluded). It’s been said on plenty of occasions about a team like Shonan, or in the past Niigata, Kofu or Omiya, you can only get away with circling the bowl for so long, one of these times you’re going to get swept away with the tide. I’ll be honest, since the 2-0 home loss to Shimizu in August, I’ve been convinced this year was going to end in relegation, I hope to be proven wrong come 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

Managerial matters – As I discussed above, Hiroshi Matsuda has generally achieved the required results in trying circumstances and the table below highlights the 3 key tenets of his reign, namely, a 442 formation, consistent player selection and an increase in yellow cards (that Alano-inspired shithousery I mentioned last week). However, with all of that said, I see him as more of a Sam Allardyce-esque firefighter than the forward-thinking kantoku the club needs to move them out of the bottom third of J1. I certainly wouldn’t like to ditch Matsuda altogether and surely we can find a spot for him either in the front office or in the youth department (Gamba Youth got tanked 9-1 by their Júbilo counterparts last weekend and look set to be relegated from the Prince Takamado Trophy West Division Premier League, so something there is most definitely broken and in need of urgent fixing). Names like Lotina and Ficcadenti have been banded about Gamba supporter circles with Tadahiro Akiba, formerly of Mito, an outside bet. However, throwing those names into the equation, when all is said and done, Matsuda is, in reality, probably the most likely person to be kantoku at the start of next season, be that in J1 or J2.



Leandro Pereira – The Brazilian striker spoke to the media recently about his earliest experiences in Japan and complained of not having a great relationship with Matsumoto kantoku Yasuharu Sorimachi which precipitated his loan move to Sanfrecce midway through the 2019 season. There has also been speculation that he won’t be offered a new deal at Gamba and he appears ready and willing to return to his native Brazil. He won’t be missed. I know you can argue that Gamba probably haven’t delivered on promises made to him on the footballing side, though they’ve certainly come through financially, as he’s believed to be the club’s highest earner, however, I’d make the point that the player himself has to take a long hard look in the mirror. His on-field bust up with Gen Shoji during the Osaka Derby was embarrassing, but it’s likely that Shoji merely stated what the majority of his team-mates and supporters have thought at one time or another. Pereira isn’t a superstar, or frankly anything close, yet from the outside it appears that he’s only willing to put in the effort when it suits him and that’s frankly the kind of prima-donna, blame everyone other than yourself behaviour the Nerazzurri can ill-afford to put up with anymore. In my book he’ll go down as a colossal waste of club resources and a horrible reflection on the archaic scouting system and front office decision making processes that have scarred Gamba over the past few years.

Endo standing ovation – To finish this section on something of a high note, it was extremely moving to see Yasuhito Endo be the last one to leave the Panasonic Stadium field last Saturday after receiving a standing ovation from everyone in the ground. I, for one, (I’m sure @GolazoGamba agrees) would love to have him back as a Gamba player for 2023…don’t let that be the last time we see him play in Suita, please!

Team News

For the first time in my 3+ years of writing these previews, I have nothing to say in here, everyone on 3 yellow cards escaped censure against Iwata and there are no fresh injury concerns. Congratulations to the current coaching staff for seemingly curing Gamba’s long-standing fitness curse.

Predicted Lineups and Stats






Kashima Antlers

At present, it appears that Daiki Iwamasa will be the man to lead Kashima into the 2023 season with the club’s chairman saying that the former Japan international defender’s footballing vision is aligned with that of the front office. This is the same chairman who criticised his own front office in his statement announcing the firing of Swiss kantoku René Weiler earlier this year. Reading between the lines, moves such as acquiring central midfielder Yuta Higuchi from Tosu when Misao and Pituca were already on the books and signing centre-back Eduardo instead would have made more logical sense, appeared to have been the trigger for the chairman’s anger. Further to that point, while it’s common for opposition fans to goad Kashima with jibes about them being located in the countryside and their stadium being impossible to reach, it seems that in reality it’s actually not so easy for them to attract top talent to deepest, darkest Ibaraki anymore. Sports Hochi’s Gamba beat reporter Mr. Kanagawa and his Kashima counterpart Mr. Uchida have chatted a couple of times on Twitter and during their talks it was revealed that with Antlers no longer being THE team in Japanese football, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to bring in genuine, proven quality either domestically or from overseas. Although they are the most successful side in the history of the J. League, Kashima boast only one J1 title in the last 12 seasons (soon to be 13) and 2023 will mark their 4th year in succession without ACL football. Is Iwamasa the man to right these wrongs? Personally, I’m sceptical, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Whatever happens this winter, he will definitely have two new promising youngsters on-board to help him navigate the choppy waters that likely lie ahead. Centre-back Keisuke Tsukui from Shohei High School in Saitama and Kashima Youth central midfielder Yoshihiro Shimoda will both make the step up to the professional ranks in 2023. Shimoda is presently with the Japan Under-18 squad on their short tour of Spain, where he is a team-mate of Gamba’s Harumi Minamino, so clearly he has some decent pedigree, and I wrote about Tsukui in my J1 Rookie Review article that you can find here.

Team News

The following players are doubts for this fixture and / or have an important status announcement regarding their availability.

DF Koki Anzai – Dislocated his right shoulder away at Shimizu last week and definitely won’t play on Saturday.

FW Shoma Doi – Has sat out the past 2 league games with a groin injury and seems set to miss this encounter as well.

DF Rikuto Hirose and MF Yuta Higuchi are available for selection again having been suspended for the win away to Shimizu last week.

Predicted Lineups and Stats



Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

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Gamba Osaka vs Kashima Antlers 19 February 2022 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Kashima Antlers
2022 J1 Season Round 1
Saturday 19 February 2022
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)


Eleven weeks since the end of the 2021 campaign and J. League is back for the 2022 edition. For Gamba fans it’ll be a first introduction to Katano-soccer while Kashima are still awaiting new kantoku René Weiler’s arrival in the country. However, Antlers supporters should be able to enjoy an initial glance at several promising winter captures as well as returning hero Yuma Suzuki.

As a slight disclaimer, it needs to be pointed out that although these two clubs share an impressive 10 J1 titles, 9 Emperor’s Cups, 8 League Cups and 2 ACL wins since the J. League’s inception in 1993, opening days and fast starts in general aren’t really their thing. The Nerazzurri have won just one opening fixture post 2011, 2-1 at then defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos back in 2020 while Kashima haven’t tasted victory since a 1-0 over Gamba in the first ever match played at Panasonic Stadium in 2016. The Ibaraki side will certainly be cock-a-hoop at having avoided being paired with Shimizu S-Pulse this season, something that has occurred 3 times in the last 7 years (including 2021), resulting in 1 draw and 2 defeats.

These two will be seeing a good deal more of each other over the coming weeks having been drawn together in the same Levain Cup group with upcoming encounters scheduled for 26 March (in Ibaraki) and 18 May (in Suita) to come so getting off to a good start here will be vital for both sides’ league campaigns and also a morale booster ahead of future cup clashes.



As this is my first match preview of the year, here are a few quick parish notices.

Thanks to everyone for the phenomenal response to my 2022 J1 Predicted Lineups article. It has frankly blown me away how many people have read, commented on, liked, retweeted and shared it, I can’t thank each and every one of you enough, my words could never express how truly grateful I am. As a result of having more eyeballs on that post, I seem to have picked up some new followers…..welcome aboard everyone!! With that in mind I thought now would be a good time to share some good sources of J1 information (apologies if I missed anyone out).

For my stats I use,

https://sporteria.jp/ (English translations in the pictures below)
https://www.football-lab.jp/ (all in Japanese)
https://www.jleague.co/ (generally has starting lineup announcements at least 2 hours before kick off)

Other good sources

https://twitter.com/JTalkPod (J-Talk Podcast, hosted by Ben and Sam (https://twitter.com/FrsoccerSam), I’m sometimes a guest too and other pods in the J-Talk solar system cover J2 and J3, FC Tokyo, and Yokohama F. Marinos, an absolute must for all fans of the league).

https://www.youtube.com/c/LostinFootballJapan (Lost in Football Japan, videos all about Japan, the J. League, matchday experiences, how to buy tickets and everything you need to follow Japanese football)

https://twitter.com/JLeague_Fantasy (J. League Fantasy – for all your fantasy football needs)

On Twitter,

@Michael_Master (transfers), @aishiterutokyo (general news), @jleagueregista (articles and opinions), @frontalerabbit (Kawasaki), @yukinho (Antlers), @FCTokyoKaiGuys (FC Tokyo), @TricolorePride (Marinos), @avispadaniel and @NavyBlueWasp (Fukuoka), @seankyaroru (comments and analysis), @R_by_Ryo (stats), @J1tokei (stats) and @JleagueShirts (international delivery of J. League uniforms) are J1 handles I highly recommend following, there are probably loads more that I’ve forgotten, please comment on this article if there are any more accounts you recommend.


Sporteria Stats in English

Tale of the Tape

As this is the first week of the season I don’t have any current data to fall back on and you should see a return of the stats tables I used last year from about round 10 as it’s from that point onward that they’ll start to take on some meaning. But, I can’t leave this section blank so let’s take a brief dive into the 2021 numbers and I’ll let you be the judge of how much relevance they’ll have on this particular match. I’ve provided data that I previously published on Twitter below to back up the general summary that appears next.

Starting off with Kashima who had something of an up-and-down 2021 where they showed the ability to mix it with the top guns on their day, indeed they saw off Yokohama F. Marinos home and away, but were also just as capable of slipping up against less fancied opponents. Antlers’ overall 2021 performance ended up looking far more impressive on a spreadsheet compared to on the actual field of play, they led the league for fewest shots against and fewest shots against on target, were 2nd when it came to shots for, shots for on target and sprints, 3rd in terms of xG against and xG difference and 4th for xG for, however, all of that only led to a 4th place league finish which coupled with Urawa’s Emperor’s Cup triumph in December saw them miss out on ACL qualification for a second consecutive year.

Long term blog readers will know all about my frustrations when it came to how Gamba’s 2021 season panned out, with the coronavirus outbreak after round 1, subsequent ACL involvement and a never-ending injury crisis paving the way for mass squad rotation and a set of results and performances that largely defied analysis. The Nerazzurri didn’t rank higher than 11th for any of my key performance indicators, xG for and passes completed were their best showings, indeed pass completion was the only category where they outshone Saturday’s opponents. While Kashima boasted the best shots against record, Gamba posted the worst stats with Masaaki Higashiguchi forced to play like a man possessed between the sticks and he could consider himself unlucky not to be named in the league’s Best Eleven for 2021 (only the brilliance of Mitch Langerak denied him). The Ao to Kuro also had the 2nd poorest xG against and shots against on target figures as well as scoring 3rd lowest in sprints per game (this can probably be connected to the punishing summer schedule resulting from the early season Covid outbreak).





Head to Head

Kashima did the double over Gamba last season, running out 1-0 winners at Panasonic Stadium before cruising to a 3-1 home victory in mid-September. While the Nerazzurri could use their recent ACL involvement and summer backlog of games as an excuse for the home defeat which came as a result of Arthur Caike’s strike in the final quarter, they were comprehensively outplayed by a far superior outfit in the return clash. After a goalless first-half, efforts from Ayase Ueda and Juan Alano plus a fine solo run and shot from Shoma Doi all within the space of 21 minutes had Antlers coasting before sloppy defensive work from Ikuma Sekigawa gifted Tiago Alves a late consolation from the penalty spot. Sekigawa was then nearly responsible for creating an extremely nervy final 5 minutes for the home support as his wild and unsuccessful lunge to retrieve the ball allowed Kosuke Onose in to curve a delicious shot towards the Kashima goal, but unfortunately for the Gamba winger his effort went agonisingly just wide.

Back in 2020, Gamba came within seconds of doing the double over Kashima as Tomoya Inukai’s 95th minute header rescued a home point for Antlers after Onose had given the visitors an early lead. Later in the year, Gamba ran out 2-0 victors in Suita, with all the action coming in the second stanza. Masaaki Higashiguchi denied Juan Alano with a brilliant low save as the Brazilian raced clean through on goal before Patric’s penalty and Kazuma Watanabe’s injury time clincher earned a 4th league win on the trot for the Nerazzurri.



Gamba Osaka


What’s changed at Gamba in the 2 ½ month break between seasons? In has come former assistant to Kenta Hasegawa during the trophy-laden 2014-2015 campaigns (also assistant to Akira Nishino from 2007-2009), Tomohiro Katanosaka, following a roller coaster 6 year spell with Oita Trinita. A host of new backroom staff have joined too, including, much to the joy of the Curva Nord faithful, a new physical coach (Ryo Yano from FC Ryukyu). Additionally 8 players have arrived at the club plus reserve ‘keeper Taichi Kato has turned his loan move from Ehime into a permanent deal. Regarding the new arrivals, for simplicity I’ll slot them into three categories, 1. Hiroto Yamami, Jiro Nakamura and Isa Sakamoto (players who were already at the club last season, either on designated special player contracts or as youth academy members), 2. foreign signings not yet in the country (Kwon Kyung-won and Dawhan), and 3. brand new players who’ve completed pre-season training (Shota Fukuoka, Mitsuki Saito and Hideki Ishige). From category 1 Yamami is the guy to watch, he’ll possibly begin the year as an impact sub, but should hopefully become a regular starter, either as an inside-forward or even centre-forward as the season progresses, look out for Nakamura and Sakamoto in the Levain Cup group stages. Both Kwon and Dawhan appear to be quality additions, but at the time of writing it’s impossible to know how long it’ll be before they can enter Japan. Dawhan has posted Instagram videos of himself training in Brazil and Kwon has been involved with the South Korean national team, so if they can join up with their team-mates soon and integration goes smoothly then they are certainly a duo for the Gamba support to get excited about. Of the other three, Fukuoka seems to be a real character and as a ball playing centre-back expect to see him take over from the departed Kim Young-gwon until Kwon is up to speed, Saito is an intriguing addition who should play regularly throughout the year and Ishige, if, and it’s a big IF, he can stay healthy could be a wonderful asset. At present it’s hard to predict with any degree of confidence where he’ll fit in, but once the season is up and running an injury or loss of form either at wing-back or inside forward will likely open the door for him to come in and prove the doubters wrong.

The coronavirus outbreak which affected 9 first teamers and 3 staff members has obviously had a negative impact on the side’s preparations though they did get around a week’s training in before the 11 day camp in Okinawa with the majority of the squad also training back in Suita for around a fortnight before this tie. With that said, I expect a slow start for the Nerazzurri, not least because the opening 3 league fixtures are Kashima (h), Urawa (a) and Kawasaki (h). Gamba took 6 points from those matches in 2020 and just 1 last year, will early results prove a reliable guide or something of a red herring this time round?

Team News

As a consequence of the recent corona outbreak it’s difficult to know just how fit each squad member is at the moment so there’s definitely the potential for a surprise or three in Saturday’s lineup though I’d still imagine the starting eleven will have plenty of experience in it. Brazilian forward Leandro Pereira missed the end of 2021 with a nagging hamstring complaint and only began training again at the beginning of this month so his participation in this clash must be in some doubt. Aside from that, the only other non-Covid related problem I’m aware of is backup goalie Jun Ichimori’s hamstring with the stopper still working his way through rehab following surgery carried out last autumn.

Predicted Lineup and Stats




Kashima Antlers

New Swiss kantoku René Weiler appears to possess an extremely attack-minded philosophy and the 2022 Kashima Antlers have a wide range of offensive weapons for him to utilise. Yuma Suzuki is back from a three-year stint in Belgium to compete with Ayase Ueda and Everaldo for a spot up top while the highly-rated Yuta Higuchi arrives from Tosu to battle it out with the likes of Shoma Doi, Ryotaro Araki, Juan Alano, Arthur Caike, Ryuji Izumi, Yuta Matsumura and Hayato Nakama for the final 2 places in the front four. That’s too many players I hear you shout, and I’d agree with you. Dare I say it, but this squad seems to have been built in the knowledge that at least a couple of the names above (I’ll let you decide who) won’t be at Antlers for much longer, either that or Weiler’s planning on going 2-2-6? At the back, Tomoya Inukai (Urawa), Koki Machida (USG) and Katsuya Nagato (Marinos) have all departed and those moves plus the uncertainty around who their starting goalkeeper will be leaves me feeling slightly pessimistic about the strength of their rearguard. However, with all that said, I can’t see Kashima finishing any lower than 5th and the other 4 teams I have in my imaginary top 5 are ACL participants, could that be the vital edge Antlers and their forward thinking coach need?

Team News

Not too much to report here apart from the news that midfielder Shintaro Nago, a recent returnee following an injury-plagued loan stint at Shonan, is still out with a foot problem and isn’t expected back until May.

Predicted Lineup and Stats



Thanks for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.

Categories
sport

Kashima Antlers vs Gamba Osaka 18 September 2021 Match Preview

Kashima Antlers vs Gamba Osaka
2021 J1 Season Round 29
Kashima Soccer Stadium
Saturday 18 September 2021
Kick Off: 18:00 (JST)


Two of J1’s perennial heavyweights step into the ring for this contest looking to make amends for damaging results suffered last weekend. Antlers were downed 3-0 at home by a rampant Avispa Fukuoka while Gamba huffed and puffed, but were ultimately bested 3-2 by Vegalta Sendai in a surprisingly high scoring shootout between two of the league’s weaker attacking units. Despite their most recent setback, Kashima are still very much in the hunt for a 2022 ACL place, sitting only 3 points off third with 10 games remaining. Gamba, meanwhile, have dropped down to fourteenth, but importantly maintain a seven point advantage over Tokushima, who occupy the uppermost spot in the drop zone. However, it seems like the Nerazzurri are currently being aided more by the poor quality of the teams below them rather than their own good form. Kashima will see this encounter as a good platform to build some momentum ahead of their midweek clash with defending champions Kawasaki, while Gamba need to arrest their recent slump in form before it turns into a full-blown crisis.

Just a quick note, I will be on next week’s edition of the J-Talk Podcast discussing this game and all the others on the round 29 slate, please check it out if you have the chance!

Tale of the Tape

A cursory glance at the stats from Gamba’s 3-2 home loss to Sendai (their eighth at Panasonic Stadium in the league this year) might suggest something of a smash-and-grab by the men from Miyagi, and while this may be partly true, those of a blue and black persuasion would do well not to dwell on that too much and instead look at the areas clearly in need of improvement. Usami and Patric being re-united in attack brought about a season high 21 shots on goal, however, had Yuji Ono taken his chance in the eighth minute or if Usami had buried his shot past Jakub Słowik when the game was on a knife-edge at 2-2 then we could have seen an outcome more in-keeping with the story the stats tell us. As it was, Takuma Nishimura stopped arguing with the officials long enough to give Usami a finishing lesson and Cayman Togashi, obviously a big fan of this blog, took exception to my pre-match comments that he was a hard-working forward who doesn’t score goals, planting two first-half headers past Masaaki Higashiguchi to leave the Gamba defence and myself with giant dollops of egg on our faces. Masanobu Matsunami once again has a free midweek and he’ll need to use all the time available to work on defending crosses and set-pieces in addition to extra shooting practice for the midfielders and forwards. A change of scenery might help a bit too as though Gamba’s road stats are much weaker than those in Suita, crucially, in away fixtures, they do get more of the two most important things in football, wins and points.

I’m sure those of you who read this blog regularly will be aware of my deep dissatisfaction with how 2021 has turned out for Gamba, I believe Kashima supporters must also be feeling a sense at frustration at how their team’s season has panned out thus far. While Gamba generally tend to play up or down to match their opponent and rarely appear much better or worse than their opposition, the only exceptions to this rule, in my eyes anyway, have been Kawasaki and Kashima, who both looked a cut above in their wins in Suita earlier in the year, at the other end of the scale, Oita rarely seem to turn up against the Nerazzurri. Despite looking so impressive on occasion and doing the double over Yokohama F. Marinos, the longest streak of consecutive league victories Antlers have been able to string together this season is four. Whenever you think they are going to kick on, they seem to stumble unexpectedly. Brazilian forward Everaldo’s drop off in goals has been a major contributing factor to their inability to properly mount a title challenge. J1’s second top marksman in 2020 with 18 strikes incredibly has only a solitary league goal to his name this time out (he does have 8 in cup competitions). Although up and comers, Ryotaro Araki (9 goals, 6 assists) and Olympian Ayase Ueda (8 goals) have done their part, not to mention the 5 goals apiece from centre-backs Tomoya Inukai and Koki Machida, just imagine Everaldo had found the back of the net 11 times instead of once. If that rang true, then I doubt Antlers would currently be lying 19 points off top spot. Should Naoki Soma be able to solve the Everaldo riddle over the winter then a 2022 title challenge isn’t out of the question, but for now all eyes in Ibaraki must be firmly set on locking down third spot this year.





Head to Head

As I mentioned above, Kashima’s 1-0 victory at Panasonic Stadium in July thanks to Arthur Caike’s first J1 goal was in actual fact far more comfortable than the final score suggests. For context, and I really do think this important when analysing most Gamba matches this season, at the time this game was held, the Nerazzurri players and staff were still living in a hotel as part of the quarantine procedure after returning from the ACL group stage in Uzbekistan. Additionally, they were playing their third match in the space of seven days while Kashima were fresh from a near two-week break.

In the corresponding fixture last year, Kosuke Onose gave Gamba a dream start in just the sixth minute before the Nerazzurri withstood a barrage of Kashima pressure. Just when it seemed they’d hold out for a vital three points, Tomoya Inukai popped up with a powerful header in off Masaaki Higashiguchi’s right-hand post in the final seconds of additional time to claim what was ultimately a deserved point for the home side.



Gamba Osaka


Now that the coast has cleared a little fixture-wise for Gamba, one would expect to see more consistent team selections. However, at the weekend we were treated to a starting eleven from which 4-4-2 or 3-4-2-1 formations looked equally plausible. As it turned out, the team lined up in a 3-4-2-1 system in the first-half with Ryu Takao partnering Gen Shoji and Kim Young-gwon at the back before a switch to 4-4-2 in the second period, a move which saw Takao revert to his best position of right-back and Shinya Yajima shift from the right shadow role to left-wing. I’ve stated multiple times that I’m no fan of constant mid-season tinkering of a club’s shape, especially defensively, and it’s up to Matsunami now to define Gamba’ strategy for the remaining 10 league fixtures, are we a back 3 or a back 4 team? Speaking of remaining fixtures, Gamba’s defeat at the hands of Sendai looks all the more damaging when you consider the run of matches that lie ahead. In addition to this tussle with Kashima, the Nerazzurri also have to travel to Kawasaki, Marinos and Urawa as well as hosting Tosu and Nagoya before the season’s end, not an easy looking set of games at all, is it? Let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed there’s nothing left riding on that final day home encounter with Satoshi Yamaguchi’s Shonan Bellmare.

Quick Update: Today (16 September) Gamba announced winger Jiro Nakamura and forward Isa Sakamoto would be promoted to the top team next season. Congratulations to both.

Team News

Yuji Ono’s wretched run of luck continued on Sunday when he was stretchered off with a right-hamstring injury after only 15 minutes, I doubt he’ll be back again this season, and it’s possible Gamba could release him at the end of the year owing to his ongoing fitness issues. Hiroki Fujiharu and Ryu Takao were also subbed off against Sendai, though I believe Fujiharu was just suffering from cramp (yet again) and Takao’s withdrawal was merely precautionary. Wellington Silva did make a welcome return to the squad on Sunday, though the fact that it was Shinya Yajima, not him, who replaced Ono early on suggests he’s not fit enough to start yet. It appears Genta Miura’s knee injury won’t require surgery, but he’s likely to be sidelined for a number of weeks. Other than that, Yuya Fukuda (hamstring), Dai Tsukamoto (thigh), Jun Ichimori (shoulder) and Haruto Shirai (knee) are the other confirmed absentees. Leandro Pereira wasn’t in the matchday squad on Sunday and all I can say is that I doubt it’s because Matsunami thinks Tiago Alves is a better player than him.

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Kashima Antlers

Kashima are Kashima and though the faces on the field and on the bench may change, the playing style and philosophy endure. You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be set up in their customary 4-4-2/4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1, however you want to define it, and will look to move the ball quickly from back to front, utilising the quality of their attacking widemen to generate chances while also peppering Gamba’s goal with a number of speculative efforts from distance. Box-to-box midfielder Diego Pituca, a stand out in the reverse fixture in July, will be a key player again here, as will compatriot Everaldo, depending on how much of a role he plays. He appears to be dropping deeper and into wider areas looking for work, when in reality it would be best for the team if he loitered around the edge of the box waiting to be serviced by the likes of Doi, Araki and Izumi rather than the other way round. The composition of Antlers central defence will also be an important factor, but I’ll get into that more in the paragraph below.

Team News


Centre-back Tomoya Inukai is the headline absentee for Kashima after injuring his hamstring in the Levain Cup quarter-final second leg defeat to Nagoya, he’s expected to be out for six weeks. Regular partner, and rumoured target for several European clubs, Koki Machida has missed the past two outings with no reason given by the club. Bueno, the Tiago Alves of Antlers, partnered rookie Naoki Hayashi (Osaka Taiiku Univ.) in the match with Fukuoka and the results were less than stellar, to say the least, so Kashima supporters will be keenly hoping for Machida’s return here. Elsewhere, backup ‘keeper Taiki Yamada (knee) is done for the year while Antlers’ version of Yuji Ono, Rikuto Hirose, is out with a hamstring problem yet again. Juan Alano and Yuta Matsumura haven’t featured in the matchday squad since the 2-1 win at Shonan on 9 August and veteran midfielder Ryota Nagaki last saw action in the 1-0 away defeat at the hands of Kobe on August 21.

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Thanks again for reading and enjoy the game whoever you are supporting.