Gamba Osaka vs Yokohama F.Marinos 14 October 2020 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Yokohama F.Marinos
J1 2020 Round 22
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Wednesday 14 October 19:00 (JST)

The Lowdown

4th placed Gamba host Yokohama F.Marinos who sit 2 places lower in the standings, 4 points worse off with an extra 3 matches played. As with our previous opponents FC Tokyo, defending J1 champions Yokohama have had their season schedule radically altered due to their participation in the Asian Champions League. As a result they’ve played every midweek since mid-August and must surely be running on fumes at the moment.

Ange Postecoglou’s side raced to a first J1 title in 15 years last season playing a breathtaking brand of attacking football which was too much for their rivals to handle. Indeed, they were the only side to beat Gamba home and away in 2019, triumphing 3-2 at Panasonic Stadium on the opening day before running out 3-1 winners at Mitsuzawa Stadium at the end of August. This year though, has been a much tougher slog for the men from Kanagawa. Their attack has actually improved, they currently average 2.01 goals per game (2nd best in J1 after Kawasaki) which is marginally up on the 2.0 in 2019. However, at the back things have gone downhill at a rate of knots. This year, they’ve already equalled the 38 goals they conceded in their title winning year, but in 10 fewer games. Additionally the 9 losses they’ve suffered this campaign is one more than they recorded in 2019.

Currently sitting in 6th place, but having played more games than everyone else in the top half with the exception of FC Tokyo, who are 7 points better off in 2nd place, Marinos face a real struggle to qualify for next year’s ACL. The challenge looks even greater when you consider that 7 of their remaining 10 J1 fixtures come against top half opponents, including all 5 teams ahead of them, 4 of those games (including this one) are away with Nagoya the only fellow ACL contender they’ll face off with at home. Let me add one more layer to this riddle if I may, consider the J1 table as it stands today (October 12th), Marinos record vs other top half teams is played 9, won 1, drawn 2, lost 6 with the only victory coming away to Kashiwa Reysol (3-1). Things have been much smoother against bottom half opposition where they’ve won 10, drawn 2 and lost 3 of their 15 games. They will desperate to improve this record on Wednesday night.

Last year I was someone who effusively praised Marinos dealings in the transfer market while contrasting them with the apparent lack of strategy on display at Gamba. Over the course of 3 transfer windows, Summer 2018, Winter 2018/2019, Summer 2019, Yokohama made a number of outstanding acquisitions of players who suited coach Ange Postecoglou’s footballing philosophy down to a tee. Centre-backs Shinnosuke Hatanaka and Thiago Martins arrived in mid-2018 and they were joined by Brazilian duo Marcos Junior and Edigar Junio, Thai full-back Theerathon and FC Ryukyu ‘keeper Park Il-gyu in the off-season. These players formed the core of last year’s title winning side while Erik and Kota Watanabe both made the move in mid-2019 and seem set to start this match, Erik being a particularly good pick up with 11 goals already this year, including 6 in his last 5 games.

Let’s contrast the paragraph above with what’s gone on in 2020. Norimichi Yamamoto, Ryuji Sugimoto and Takayuki Mae all joined from J2 sides last winter, but have all been shipped out on loan already without even making a solitary J1 appearance. Keiya Sento fared little better, playing just 3 league matches before returning to former side Kyoto on loan. The 2 players they signed from fellow J1 outfits last off-season have featured more, but haven’t really improved the team. Wide-man Kota Mizanuma has bagged an impressive 7 assists, but can’t seem to nail down a starting spot with 9 of 17 J1 appearances coming from the bench. Forward Ado Onaiwu has 3 goals and 3 assists to his name from 17 games, but he’s started just 6 times. Mid-season captures, Junior Santos (Kashiwa) and Daizen Maeda (Matsumoto), both on loan, seem to offer more hope. Santos has bagged 8 goals in his first 14 matches for the club, though it should be noted that after netting 5 in his first 4 appearances he has just 3 in the last 10 and he’s only scored once against top half opposition (Nagoya).

My final thoughts in this deep dive on Marinos are far more positive and look to the future. It’s interesting to see they’ve already tied down Juntendo University defender Ryotaro Tsunoda to a professional contract starting from 2022 and have registered him as a designated special player this year. He debuted as a substitute in their previous fixture with Oita and has been labelled the best defender in Japanese varsity soccer. Additionally, Shunsuke Hirai (DF), Ryonosuke Kabayama (MF) and Tomoki Tagawa (GK) all from Kokoku High School in Osaka have been locked down from next year, while youth team products, Riku Terakado (GK) and Keita Ueda (MF) will be promoted to the senior team in 2021. Marinos and Kashima have both been extremely active in trying to secure the next generation of talent early and with the effects of COVID-19 likely to linger for some time to come I wonder if this is a strategy we’ll see more and more teams adopt?

Now for Gamba who will be going for their 7th straight victory in this fixture. In fact their 13 victories this year to date is already more than last season (12) and 2017 (11) and only one shy of 2018 (14), though it should be noted that those were all historically poor seasons for the Nerazzurri. They are also only 6 points less than 2019’s total of 47, despite having played 13 fewer games this season, so it’s been quite the turnaround. The defence is where things have really moved forward, let’s compare Gamba with city rivals Cerezo. In 2019 the Cherry Blossoms boasted the best backline in J1, letting in just 25 strikes in their 34 matches while Gamba leaked a whopping 48. This time round both sides have identical goals against records, conceding 24 apiece. I know Cerezo have played one game more and have also squared off against Kawasaki twice (being spanked for 8 goals in 2 games) to Gamba’s once, but I think my point still stands. At home though, things must start improving as the Nerazzurri have averaged 1.3 goals against versus just 1.14 on the road. It should be noted that Gamba’s away form this year has been quite incredible and I’ll take a more in depth look at it ahead of the match with Oita on Sunday.

Head to Head

In what seemed like a lifetime ago, Gamba kicked off their 2020 J1 campaign with a surprise 2-1 win over Marinos at Nissan Stadium, Shu Kurata and Shinya Yajima taking advantage of some generous defending from the home side to bag themselves a goal and assist each before half-time. Marcos Junior pulled one back late on, but it wasn’t enough and Gamba earned a win over a side who did the double over them back in 2019.

I’ve never actually attended a Gamba home game against Marinos, but due to my past life living in Machida, I’ve seen several away contests. Yosuke Ideguchi’s masterclass in the 2-2 draw in 2016 plus Ritsu Doan supplying the finish to a flowing counter-attack which earned the Nerazzurri a hard-fought 1-0 win in 2017 are two of my personal highlights from this fixture.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

No new injury worries for Gamba with Yuji Ono (knee – season) and captain Genta Miura (thigh – return unknown) the only two certain absentees. Obviously the heavy surface and physical nature of the game against FC Tokyo on Saturday will have taken a toll on the players, but I’d expect the best available eleven to start this game and maybe a touch of rotation to take place in the Oita game on Sunday.

Yokohama F.Marinos

2019 J1 MVP Teruhito Nakagawa pulled up with a hamstring injury in the match away to Kashiwa on September 27th and hasn’t been seen since. Elsewhere, regular captain Takuya Kida picked up his 4th yellow card of the season in the 4-0 win over Oita at the weekend so will have to sit this one out. Left-back Ryo Takano, who missed most of 2019 with a knee injury, was subbed off only 10 minutes into the 1-1 draw with Tosu on September 30th and has to be a major doubt for this clash.

Know Your Opponent – Yokohama F.Marinos

*Please note this will be the last time I use this feature this year as I’ve now covered every team.
Kantoku: Ange Postecoglou
Appointed: 1st February 2018
League Record: P 92 W 45 D 13 L 34 F 174 A 132 Points Per Game 1.61 Clean Sheets 22 Games Without Scoring 11

GK #1 Park Il-gyu – The former Fujieda MYFC ‘keeper enjoyed a meteoric rise, winning J3 with FC Ryukyu in 2018 before landing the J1 title with Marinos the following year. He’s suffered a couple of injuries this season which have opened the door for Yuji Kajikawa, however, I believe he is still Ange’s number one when fit.

RB #25 Ryuta Koike – Ex-Renofa Yamaguchi and Kashiwa Reysol full-back who joined from Lokeren in Belgium this summer. Has generally rotated with the more experienced Ken Matsubara, as Matsubara played against his former club Oita at the weekend I’m expecting Koike to start here.

RCB #13 Thiago Martins – Has been first choice at the heart of the Marinos central defence since joining from Palmeiras midway through Ange Postecoglou’s first year in Kanagawa. Missed only one game in last season’s title winning run and formed an excellent partnership with the man just below.

LCB #44 Shinnosuke Hatanaka – One of many talented players to come through the ranks at Tokyo Verdy, Hatanaka came to the club in the same transfer window as Thiago, but initially had to bide his time behind Serbian, Dusan. An ever present last time out, Hatanaka has also established himself in Hajime Moriyasu’s national team squad, winning 7 caps to date.

LB #5 Theerathon Bunmathan – Popular Thai full-back who netted the opener in Marinos 3-1 home win over Gamba last year with a deflected effort and also repeated the same trick in the title-winning victory over FC Tokyo in round 34. Made his first foray into Japanese football with Vissel Kobe in 2018, but their loss was certainly Marinos gain and with Ryo Takano out injured he is the undisputed first choice for Postecoglou.

RCM #6 Takahiro Ogihara – Likely stand-in skipper in the absence of Takuya Kida, Cerezo youth product Ogihara was one of the first names on the team sheet last season, but has been used off the bench more frequently this year.

LCM #26 Kota Watanabe – Like Hatanaka, Watanabe made the short journey to Kanagawa from Tokyo Verdy. The diminutive central midfielder initially had to make do with substitute appearances, but recently has begun to be entrusted with a starting berth. He bagged his first J1 goal and assist in the 4-3 win at Shimizu in August.

RW #17 Erik – The man in form with 6 strikes in his last 5 games including a pair of near identical goals off the bench against Oita last Saturday. He joined as a replacement for the injured Edigar Junio midway through last season and quickly endeared himself to the Marinos faithful with 8 goals in his first 12 league appearances. He started a little more slowly this year, but is now the club’s joint top scorer alongside the man below.

AM #9 Marcos Junior – One of the best signings made by a J1 club in recent years, Marcos Junior finished as the league’s joint top scorer alongside team-mate Teruhito Nakagawa in his debut season last year, he also added a J1 winners medal and earned a place in the J1 Best Eleven. This time out, despite Marinos performing poorer as a whole, he’s on track to beat last season’s goalscoring total of 15 having already slammed home 11 strikes in 21 matches including one in the opening day defeat by Gamba.

LW #38 Daizen Maeda – Mid-season pick up on loan from J2 outfit Matsumoto Yamaga having spent the previous year with Maritimo in Portugal. Possesses electric pace and has earned international honours, though doubts persist about his ability to perform consistently at this level.

CF #45 Ado Onaiwu – Marinos were surprisingly able to lure him away from Urawa last Winter following his successful loan spell at Oita Trinita. I thought his signing would be a real coup for Yokohama, but things haven’t really gone his way. His shooting boots deserted him against Gamba in round 1 and haven’t really come back since.

Other Options – Owing to their horrendous fixture pile-up Marinos have experimented with several different formations and a multitude of players, the ones selected above are merely those who I think are the best available for this fixture. Yuji Kajikawa, the only off-season signing from J2 who has made any real impact on the starting line-up could keep his place ahead of the fit again Park. Ken Matsubara is an experienced option at right-back while ex-Mito centre-back Makito Ito endured a tough afternoon against Gamba in February, but could deputise for either Thiago or Hatanaka. In midfield, former club captain Jun Amano is now back from a loan spell in Belgium, former Tosu, FC Toyko and Cerezo winger Kota Mizanuma is a key provider of assists and rookie Eitaro Matsuda has looked to be an exciting prospect since returning from a loan at Sagamihara. Postecoglou seems to rate Takuya Wada’s versatility as he can operate in either full-back position or as a holding midfielder. In attack, Edigar Junio has yet to get back to his best since returning from injury and Junior Santos is a bull of a forward who possesses both power and pace.

Predicted Line Ups

Match Prediction

A really tough one to call as on their day the defending champions can turn anyone over, but this year they’ve generally come up short against top half opponents. Gamba’s improved defence will be confident of stifling the dangerous Brazilians in the Marinos ranks. I’ll say we’ll have a repeat of the scoreline from the opening day with Gamba bagging a 2-1 win despite our visitors dominating all stats with the exception of the scoreboard.


FC Tokyo 0-1 Gamba Osaka 10 October 2020 Match Summary

I was originally planning to put this into my next match preview, but as there were so many controversial issues in this game I decided to give this an article of it’s own. Hope you enjoy!

Gamba battled to a 6th win in-a-row with a 1-0 triumph over FC Tokyo in farcical conditions at Ajinomoto Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory moves them within 3 points of their hosts with 3 fewer games played. City neighbours Cerezo’s 1-0 defeat at Nagoya made it a good weekend for Nerazzurri fans who will surely now see a genuine chance of at least a top 4 finish.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto made 5 personnel and 1 positional change from the midweek win at Tosu with centre-backs, Gen Shoji and Kim Young-gwon, central midfielder Yuki Yamamoto and forward Patric coming in while Takashi Usami played on the right-side of midfield for the first time this year and Yuya Fukuda switched from right-midfield / right-wing back to an orthodox left back role. Shunya Suganuma, Ryo Shinzato, Hiroki Fujiharu, Shinya Yajima and Kazuma Watanabe made way with Shinzato and Fujiharu the only two of that quintet to not feature on the bench.

The match kicked off with standing water visible on large chunks of the ground which made neat, intricate passing moves an impossibility. I think I commented after the U23s played a fixture in even worse conditions away to Gifu earlier in the year that it’s really unfair to judge players’ abilities on such a surface, but you can certainly learn something about their character in a trying situation such as this. I’ll try to take that into account in my summary of the game.

Gamba were initially the brighter of the two sides and took the game to their opponents in the opening ten minutes. With that said, inside the first quarter both teams enjoyed two decent chances apiece, with the home side having by far the more dangerous ones. Both of the Gasmen’s centre-backs will feel they should have done much better with headers from Hirotaka Mita set-plays, however, neither could find the target and Gamba were able to breathe a little easier. The Nerazzurri’s Brazilian front-pairing both had half chances, but Ademilson’s header and Patric’s drive from outside the box following an excellent run by Usami where he went past 4 defenders were as close as they came. After that, the weather was the game’s MVP and chances were at a premium.

Regular readers of my blog will know my views on handball penalties, so I’ll come flat out and say it, the spot kick awarded to Gamba in the 39th minute shouldn’t have been given in a month of Sundays in my opinion. The official rules may say differently, but Yosuke Ideguchi’s cross which went over the head of Tokyo right-winger Hirotaka Mita and was headed into the back of his arm from literally a yard away by Ademilson left me and many others asking, what else could Mita have done? Ademilson stepped up coolly, waited for Gasmen ‘keeper Akihiro Hayashi to dive to his right and promptly dispatched his kick low into the opposite corner. 1-0 Gamba at half-time.

The field initially seemed more playable at the start of the second stanza and it opened relatively brightly with Ademilson feeding Usami from the right-side, but Gamba’s talisman saw his shot well smothered by Hayashi from close range. Tokyo’s Brazilians, Adailton, Leandro and Diego Oliveira then combined to tee up compatriot Arthur Silva whose goalbound effort was well blocked by Yuya Fukuda.

Shortly after those chances, the rain came down heavily once more which led to off-the-ball incidents taking centre stage. The referee didn’t help matters by not giving a couple of clear fouls on Arthur Silva and that seemed to build tensions among the capital club’s Brazilian contingent. Whereas in the match at Panasonic Stadium, the South Americans and Yojiro Takahagi were able to waste time arguing with the officials from a winning position, at 1-0 down it only served as a handbrake on their side’s progress here.

It was all a bit much for Leandro who appeared to miss with an elbow aimed at the head of ex-Tokyo man Kim Young-gwon in the 54th minute. Not content with that he clearly punched Yuki Yamamoto in the face while chasing a long ball 15 minutes later. The referee didn’t see the contact and it will be interesting to see what punishment, if any, is meted out by the JLeague.

Tokyo’s players surrounded the ref pleading for Kim Young-gwon to see red less than 10 minutes later after he accidentally landed a high kick on an onrushing Leandro on the edge of his own box. I could see their point, but would counter it by saying that the on-loan Kashima man shouldn’t have been on the field at that point to make the run in the first place.

Leandro did, however, see the final whistle, curling free kicks past either post from the edge of the box after Kim and Yamamoto fouls, which was kind of ironic as they were they players he’d clashed with earlier. The home side pressed in the last ten minutes plus additional time, but Gamba held strong to earn their first win away to FC Tokyo since 2001. 6 wins in-a-row with 3 clean sheets kept during that run, let the good times continue to roll!

The games just keep coming and coming, next up are defending champions Yokohama F.Marinos at Panasonic Stadium on Wednesday night. Look out for my preview of that which should be live on Monday evening Japanese time.


FC Tokyo vs Gamba Osaka 10 October 2020 Match Preview

FC Tokyo vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 21
Ajinomoto Stadium
Saturday 10 October 14:00 (JST)

Last Time Out

Gamba recorded their 5th consecutive league win with a comfortable 2-1 triumph at a blustery Ekimae Real Esate Stadium on Wednesday night. With this being the second of five games within the space of fifteen days it was the first time this year we saw real rotation in the Gamba ranks. In total there were 6 changes to the starting lineup from the side that saw off Kashima last Saturday. At centre-back Ryo Shinzato started his first J1 game for Gamba while Shunya Suganuma returned to the starting eleven for the first time since the Osaka derby in round 2, Gen Shoji was on the bench with Kim Young-gwon left at home. Elsewhere, both forwards were switched, with Ademilson and Kazuma Watanabe starting and Takashi Usami and Patric on the pine. In midfield, Yuya Fukuda was selected on the right in place of Kosuke Onose while Shinya Yajima took over Yuki Yamamoto’s pot to make his first start since overcoming a sprained ankle. The team began in a 4-4-2 formation before changing to a 3-5-2 about 30 minutes in.

Tosu opened the match stronger, controlling both territory and possession with Gamba content to sit back and soak up pressure. However, the home side lacked penetration in the attacking third, moving the ball from side to side, but rarely threatening Masaaki Higashiguchi’s goal. Cho Dong-geon flicked a header from Riki Harakawa’s corner onto the bar in the 7th minute and Ryang Yong-gi shot over, but that was all they had to show for their early endeavours. At the other end, Gamba made them pay with two deadly counter attacks. First, in the 21st minute, good work down the left involving Shu Kurata and Hiroki Fujiharu culminated with the latter delivering the ball into the box where Watanabe took one touch with his right foot to bring it under control and then used his left to dispatch it past the despairing Yohei Takaoka low to his right. Just 13 minutes later it was two and Watanabe, whose 4 goals this year prior to this game had all come off the bench, bagged his 100th strike in J1 in fine style. A beautiful one-two between Ademilson and Watanabe released the Brazilian down the right flank, he centred for his strike partner to fire high into the back of the net.

Shuhei Kawasaki and Kosuke Onose replaced Kurata and Fujiharu at the half-time interval and the Osaka side dominated proceedings in the opening 15 minutes of the second stanza, young Kawasaki was heavily involved in several attacks. Following that, Tosu showed more urgency and Gamba, after initially being quite open to the counter, again shifted back into their solid defensive shape to see out the win. Left winger Tomoya Koyamatsu and central midfielder Riki Harakawa were at the heart of Tosu’s creativity. Second half substitute Kaisei Ishii shot over from the edge of the box midway though they second period, while a few minutes later full-back Ryoya Morishita blasted high and wide from a tight angle. Centre-back Teruki Hara missed Sagan’s best chance inside the 90 when he put Harakawa’s powerful drilled cross wide from 6 yards out. The Kyushu side were finally rewarded for their efforts when Uruguayan Renzo Lopez, who’d replaced Cho earlier in the half, denied Gamba a clean sheet by outjumping Yuya Fukuda to head home Harakawa’s measured cross in the second minute of additional time. However, it was too little too late for Tosu and the visitors won a league match in Kyushu for the first time since 2017.

FC Tokyo advanced to the final of the Levain Cup with an impressive 2-0 win away to J1 champions-elect Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night. Goals in either half from the excellent Brazilian Leandro earned them a famous win and they will face Kashiwa Reysol on November 7th after the Chiba-based side saw off Yokohama F.Marinos 1-0 in Kanagawa.

The Lowdown

2nd in the table FC Tokyo host 4th placed Gamba Osaka in a contender for game of the round at Ajinomoto Stadium this Saturday afternoon. The Gasmen are 6 points better off than their opponents, but have crucially played an extra 3 matches, so an away win on Saturday would put the Nerazzurri within striking distance of their hosts. The reverse fixture between these two at Panasonic Stadium at the end of August didn’t pass without incident, Hiroki Fujiharu’s goal to put Gamba 2-1 up on the stroke of half-time was incorrectly ruled out for offside and FC Tokyo ended up running out 3-1 victors. The fact that Gamba have yet to lose in the 14 J1 games this season in which they’ve led shows just how crucial that decision was in altering the course of the outcome.

Our opposition this week are clearly one of the top teams in J1 and will surely feel that they could have run Kawasaki closer if it hadn’t been for the mammoth impact that their Asian Champions League participation has had on their J1 campaign. Let’s look at their schedule since they last faced Gamba. In the month of September alone, they fulfilled 8 league fixtures and 1 Levain Cup quarter-final and in October they’ve already seen off Shonan 1-0 in Hiratsuka last Sunday before defeating Frontale in the League Cup as mentioned above. They’ve won seven, drawn one and lost just two of those games which is a testament to the strength of the squad that former Gamba boss Kenta Hasegawa has built in western Tokyo.

An over-reliance on the goals of Diego Oliveira has been a weakness for the Gasmen over the past couple of campaigns, however, the shrewd acquisitions of his countrymen Leandro (Kashima) and the pacy Adailton (Iwata) has helped to relieve that particular burden a lot. Their attack has clearly improved in comparison to last season when they finished runners-up to Yokohama F.Marinos. They’re averaging 1.6 goals per game this year in comparison with 1.35 in 2019. At the back things have been a little more shaky, probably owing to the amount of rotation they’ve had to do, at present they average 1.35 goals against in 2020 compared with only 0.85 a year ago. Defending of crossed balls and in particular corners has been a constant cause of concern for FC Tokyo supporters on Twitter, though it should be noted that their defensive structures were pretty solid for a lot of the game away to Gamba.

Both FC Tokyo and Gamba have superior away records compared with what they do in their home stadiums and I can only put this down to the effect that COVID-19 has had on home attendances. Four of Tokyo’s five league defeats so far this year have come on home turf and they are currently averaging 1.8 points per home game versus 2.0 outside of Japan’s capital. To date they have seen off, Shonan (3-0), Urawa and Cerezo (2-0), Yokohama FC (2-1), Nagoya and Sendai (1-0) on their own patch, but have gone down to Kawasaki (0-4), Tosu and Oita (2-3) and Kashima (1-2).

Gamba are flying high away from home with a record of 7 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses which means they are already 2 wins and 3 points better of than their total from the whole of 2019. They currently average 2.3 points per game outside of Suita compared with just 1.5 at Panasonic Stadium and like their opponents on Saturday, they’ve lost just once away from home this season (3-0 at Kashiwa in round 15). The Nerazzurri also come into this clash in their best run of form since the end of 2018 (when they were victorious 9 times in a row), winning their last 5 which eclipses their four game winning run between rounds 3-7. One cause for concern may be the lack of clean sheets with only 4 being kept in 20 J1 fixtures so far compared with 11 in 34 games last time out. On their way to 7th place in J1 last year Gamba averaged 1.59 goals per game, marginally higher than this term’s 1.5, but at the back there has been a marked improvement with only 1.2 strikes per game conceded in 2020 versus 1.4 in the previous campaign.

Head to Head

Gamba have an appalling record in this fixture, winning the first two clashes between the sides in 2000 and 2001, but they have failed to return to Osaka with a victory on every occasion since. As the table below shows, Gamba have taken just a solitary point from the previous 6 games between the two at Ajinomoto Stadium. I attended Kenta Hasegawa’s final match as Gamba head coach in 2017 before he took over at FC Tokyo and it was a highly forgettable 0-0 draw with me being full of the cold and sitting outside for a couple of hours certainly not helping matters.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

Gamba had the opportunity to rest many of their regular starters at Tosu on Wednesday and the only definite absentees for this game will be Yuji Ono who is out for the season after knee surgery and Genta Miura who is still missing with a thigh problem. Kim Young-gwon and Kazuma Watanabe will both make their 50th league appearances for Gamba if selected for this game, Watanabe will, of course, be up against one of his former sides fresh from reaching his century of J1 goals in midweek.

FC Tokyo

FC Tokyo captain Keigo Higashi has missed all of 2020 with a broken foot while the versatile Makoto Okazaki is now back after a tough loan spell at Shimizu, Transfermarkt report he has inflammation in his knee. Kazuya Konno, a promising attacking midfielder, recruited from Hosei University last winter and compared with Shoya Nakajima earlier in the year hasn’t been seen since the 2-1 home defeat by Kashima on August 26th and his absence from the much shuffled side for the match at Shonan suggests he may be carrying an injury.

Predicted Line Ups

Gamba Osaka
After all the rotation in midweek, I think we’ll see a full strength Gamba on Saturday. I really don’t see Miyamoto deviating away from the members you can see below, although it is possible he could shuffle between 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 as happened in Saga on Wednesday. Yamamoto starting in place of Yajima is the most likely difference between Miyamoto’s side and mine, though theoretically any of Patric, Ademilson or Watanabe could partner Usami in attack, my money is on the more physical Patric getting the nod.

FC Tokyo
FC Tokyo have switched between 4-3-3 and Kenta Hasegawa’s favoured 4-4-2 in recent weeks depending on which personnel are selected for any given match. I believe if everyone was fit and they were only playing one game per week then their strongest eleven would be (4-3-3) Hayashi – H. Nakamura, Watanabe, Morishige, Ogawa – Higashi, Takahagi, Abe – Diego Oliveira, Nagai, Leandro, though with their deluge of games they are currently facing, I’m sure even their own supporters have little idea which side will be chosen on a weekly basis.

Match Prediction

A tough one to call, Gamba have a horrible record away to Tokyo, but they are coming into this one full of confidence on the back of a 5 game winning streak, they are also one of the top away sides in J1 this year. Both outfits played on Wednesday night, so fatigue will be an issue, however, Gamba were able to rest more of their starters than Tokyo and also, with all due respect to Tosu, played much weaker opposition. I’ve put all of those factors together and come up with an entertaining 2-2 draw as my match prediction.


Sagan Tosu vs Gamba Osaka 7 October 2020 Match Preview

Sagan Tosu vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 10
Ekimae Real Estate Stadium
Wednesday 7 October 19:00 (JST)

Gamba ran out 2-0 winners in a hard fought match at home to Kashima Antlers last Saturday night. For my thoughts on that game and also the shock departure of Yasuhito Endo on loan to Jubilo Iwata please check out this week’s edition of the J-Talk Podcast (@JtalkPod) available on most podcast apps.

The Lowdown

Gamba travel down to Kyushu to face off against Sagan Tosu in a game re-arranged after the original clash in August was postponed due to Tosu being struck down by a COVID-19 cluster. Now back in action, Sagan currently sit 14th in J1 with 18 points from 18 games while Gamba are full of confidence on the back of 4 successive victories which have taken them up to 5th in the standings, a win here would send them above Nagoya and into a potential ACL spot.

Tosu haven’t had a midweek off since returning to J1 action on September 5th following their 4 week Coronavirus induced hiatus. Having played 9 matches both before and after that break, now is a good chance to compare and contrast their form. They failed to find the back of the net in 6 of their opening 9 league fixtures including their first 5, winning just once and taking 7 points in the process. There were on average 1.7 goals per Sagan fixture prior to the break which contrasts with the 3.4 we’ve seen since. Performances have also seen an upsurge with 3 wins and 11 points being taken from the 9 matches since the resumption of their campaign.

3 of Tosu’s 4 league victories this year have come at home, and they’ve conceded just 9 times in 9 games at the Ekimae Stadium which contrasts with 17 in 9 matches on the road. Their results in Saga have a real scattergun feel to them having recorded 3 victories, Yokohama FC and FC Tokyo (3-0) plus Kashiwa Reysol (2-1), 3 draws, Hiroshima (0-0), Cerezo and Shimizu (both 1-1) and 3 defeats, Kobe (1-0), Sapporo (2-0) and Yokohama F.Marinos (3-1).

After many amateur pundits including myself tipped them to finish last, Sagan have confounded their critics with some decent displays, including home and away wins over high-flying FC Tokyo which should serve as a reminder to Gamba of how tough this game will be. Youth team products Daiki Matsuoka and Kaisei Ishii have performed well, while Daichi Hayashi and Ryoya Morishita are rookies out of university who’ve really stepped up to the plate this year and Riki Harakawa in midfield is a rare example of a Tosu player who’s in the prime of his career.

After having a relatively light schedule compared with their rivals up until this point, Gamba now find themselves in the middle of a fixture deluge. They’ll travel to Japan’s capital after this game to face FC Tokyo on Saturday (kick off 14:00 JST) before hosting Yokohama F.Marinos the following Wednesday night, they then return to Kyushu to square off against Oita Trinita a week on Sunday. These 4 games could really set the tone for the remainder of the campaign. A win in this encounter would mean Gamba had already equalled last year’s total number of wins (12) despite having played 14 fewer games. It seems that the Nerazzurri have returned to their late 2016 / early 2017 level in the final glory days of Kenta Hasegawa’s reign, so it’ll be interesting to see the next steps Tsuneyasu Miyamoto takes to develop the team further.

Head to Head

Gamba have a pretty dreadful recent record in matches away to Sagan, winning once and losing five times since earning promotion back to J1 in 2014. The sole victory came in 2017 and was actually Gamba’s final three-pointer of that season, despite the match being played in round 24. The 3-0 pasting at the beginning of Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s reign in August 2018 was particularly harrowing, although the Nerazzurri took heed from that humiliation and subsequently won their next 9 league matches. Last year’s 3-1 reverse with Ryotaro Meshino netting an injury time consolation was especially hard to take as Tosu had scored just once in their ten previous fixtures leading up to that clash.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

Shinya Yajima returned from his sprained ankle as a late substitute in the win over Kashima and is in contention to start here. Yuji Ono (knee – season) misses out against his former club as does captain Genta Miura (thigh). With midweek games this Wednesday and next we should see some extra rotation in the upcoming games. Endo is obviously out of the equation which could open the door for Kohei Okuno or Ren Shibamoto to earn a call up from the U23s while left-back Keisuke Kurokawa and centre-back Riku Matsuda are others who we may see in the J1 team before much longer. Kim Young-gwon will play his 50th league game for Gamba if selected for this and Ademilson will make his 150th J1 appearance.

Sagan Tosu

Tosu don’t have their injury concerns to seek, especially at the back. Brazilian defender Eduardo was last seen in the 2-1 win over Kashiwa on September 13th while Daiki Miya, an off-season capture from Vissel Kobe has been plagued by fitness issues all year. Versatile veteran Hideto Takahashi went off injured against FC Tokyo a couple of games back and is likely to miss this one. Elsewhere, fellow Takahashi, Yoshiki has only played once in J1 this year. Uruguayan forward Renzo Lopez was an unused sub in Sagan’s first match after their COVID enforced lockdown, but hasn’t been seen since and Brazilian winger Tiago Alves hasn’t made a matchday squad since being sent off for two yellow cards against S-Pulse at the end of July.

Know Your Opponent – Sagan Tosu

Kantoku: Kim Myung-hwi

GK #18 Yohei Takaoka – Former Yokohama FC product who took over between the sticks midway through last season. He initially impressed, particularly in their 2-1 win away at Cerezo last Obon, but became more erratic as the campaign wore on. Has been rotating the jersey and captaincy with the more experienced Tatsuya Morita in recent weeks.

RB #28 Ryoya Morishita – Exciting attacking full-back who’s in his first year as a pro having joined from Meiji University last winter. Likes to get forward and has scored twice in Tosu’s previous three matches. Would surely make a J1 University Rookie XI for 2020.

RCB #41 Daiki Matsuoka – Better known as a nuggety central midfielder, youth team product Matsuoka has been filling in at the back in recent weeks. He seems decidedly less confident in his new role and has been responsible for a couple of goals conceded as a result of poor passes out of defence. Standing 170cm he’s not your archetypical centre-back, but this is the reality that faces Tosu due to their poor financial situation.

LCB #2 Teruki Hara – Jack-of-all-trades this season and last, Hara’s current role is in the heart of Sagan’s defence, though he is essentially capable of playing anywhere along the back or in midfield. A contemporary of Gamba’s Takahiro Ko at Funabashi Municipal High School in Chiba, he spent 2 seasons with Niigata before heading west to Saga. Has 1 senior Japan national team cap to his name and is a contender for the Tokyo Olympics squad.

LB #6 Yuto Uchida – Gamba Youth graduate who only made a solitary League Cup appearance (in a 2-0 win away to Tosu in 2014) during his time with the senior team. Including an initial loan spell, he played close to 150 J2 games in 5 seasons with Tokushima Vortis before earning another crack at J1 with Tosu this year.

RCM #4 Riki Harakawa – Now in his 4th season with the club, former Kyoto and Kawasaki playmaker Harakawa is a real threat from set-pieces. A member of the 2016 Olympic squad, the guys over at J.League Regista did a great piece on him, you can check it out here…

LCM #23 Fuchi Honda – Another youth team graduate who’s in his first year as a pro, I actually tipped him to star when I first guested on the J-Talk Podcast back in June. He hasn’t yet lived up to my expectations and has played off the bench mostly in recent weeks. With that said, at just 19 he still has a long future ahead of him and gaining J1 experience at such a young age will only benefit him.

RW #7 Takeshi Kanamori – Attacker or winger who turned his loan deal from Kashima into a permanent one over the winter. Picked up an injury earlier on in the campaign, but has been back firing since the one month COVID-19 layoff.

LW #22 Tomoya Koyamatsu – Started off his career with Nagoya before dropping down to J2 for a decent 3 year spell with Kyoto Sanga. 9 goals and 6 assists while forming a deadly attacking combination with Kazunari Ichimi and Keiya Sento earned him a second shot in J1 and he’s looked to be one of Tosu’s most dangerous attackers this year.

RCF #19 Cho Dong-geon – Veteran South Korean forward who’s been with the club since 2017. Probably can’t consider himself to be first choice, but due to the avalanche of fixtures this season he’s seen plenty of action as part of Sagan’s rotational policy.

LCF #33 Kaisei Ishii – Yet another Tosu Under-18 graduate, Ishii has actually been with Sagan since he was in elementary school. With 3 goals and 3 assists already in 2020, the 20 year-old sophomore pro is likely to be attracting attention from other J1 sides in the not too distant future.

Other Options – As mentioned above, goalkeepers Takaoka and Tatsuya Morita seem to be rotating the gloves, and if I’ve cracked Kim’s code then Takaoka will start this one with Morita in the bench, though there’s no guarantee I’m right. At the back, former Marinos and Reysol centre-back Park Jeong-su seems to be behind full-backs and midfielders to play his preferred position which says a lot about how much his coach rates him, left-back Ayumu Ohata is yet another Tosu Under-18 product who has looked good in brief flashes this year. Further forward, Yuta Higuchi can be found on the right flank or in the middle, I think he’ll be rested for this one, but I believe he is first choice on the wing. South Korean winger An Yong-woo will probably be on the bench here, I’ve also put top scorer Daichi Hayashi, an Osaka Taiiku University graduate, there as I think he’ll be rotated out while club legend Yohei Toyoda is seeing less and less action as the years go by.

Predicted Line Ups

Match Prediction

Not a happy hunting ground for Gamba, but they do come into this game buoyed by a 4 game winning run while their hosts are in the midst of a fixture pile-up and have real issues covering the centre-back position. With that in mind, I’ll say Gamba will snap their poor recent record in Kyushu and take this one 2-0.


Gamba Osaka vs Kashima Antlers 3 October 2020 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Kashima Antlers
J1 2020 Round 20
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 3 October 19:00 (JST)

The Lowdown

It’s crunch time for Gamba as they welcome Kashima Antlers to Panasonic Stadium in what will be the first of 5 games in the next 15 days. The rescheduled match at Tosu will follow this one, then there are encounters with FC Tokyo (a), Yokohama F.Marinos (h) and Oita Trinita (a) to be dealt with as the COVID-19 affected schedule really starts to bite.

Kashima come into this clash in 6th place in the standings with 33 points from 20 games, Gamba are a place below them, a point worse off, but importantly with two games in hand. Thus a home win on Saturday night would put the Nerazzurri ahead of Antlers with 2 fewer games played, something that would likely prove crucial with the upcoming avalanche of games in mind.

Kashima started the season poorly under new Brazilian head-coach Zago and took just 12 points from their opening 12 fixtures. However, after their 1-1 draw with Gamba back in August they went on a 7 game winning streak which was only abruptly halted by Oita last weekend, they have picked up 21 points in their most recent 8 games. They’ve lost 7 times in J1 this year which has already equalled their total losses for the whole of 2019, though in fairness that was the least number of league games they’d lost in a calendar year since 2010 (6). Defensively things haven’t been too pretty for the Ibaraki side this campaign, letting in 1.35 goals per game which contrasts with the meagre 0.88 conceded in 2019, indeed their overall goals against total in 2020 is only three shy of last year despite having played 14 fewer fixtures.

With 4 wins and 5 defeats in Suita this year Gamba have already eclipsed their total number of home defeats suffered in 2019 (4), this has been balanced out by an excellent record on the road where they’ve won 6, drawn 2 and lost only 1 of their games. The 6 wins is already 1 better than in the previous campaign while the 20 points accrued equals last season’s haul, but has been earned in 8 fewer matches. Kashima have won their past 5 away league games and they last tasted defeat outside of Ibaraki in a 1-0 loss to Yokohama FC on August 19th. Looking at their away results in detail the only real pattern we can see is that, like their campaign as a whole, things have steadily improved over time. Impressive road wins over Oita (4-1), Nagoya (3-1), Kashiwa (3-2) and FC Tokyo, Shimizu and Cerezo (2-1) have been balanced out by losses at Hiroshima (3-0), Kawasaki (2-1) and Urawa, Shonan and Yokohama FC (all 1-0), those latter two being the only ones that particularly stand out as poor results.

I may come across as overly critical of Gamba on this blog, so I think it’s important to set this season’s performance to date in the context of recent years. The Nerazzurri have kicked off 2020 with 10 wins from 18 league fixtures giving them a win ratio of 55.6% which far exceeds the 35.3% last year, 41.2% in 2018 and 32.4% the season before that. We have to go back to 2016 when Gamba won exactly half of their regular season fixtures for a comparable performance, let’s home the upcoming deluge of matches doesn’t derail things.

I know this preview is a bit stat heavy, but I feel I covered a lot of other factors related to the recent history between these two teams in my preview for the game back in August, I’d like to point you in the direction of that if you are keen to read up more on Zago and the Antlers players likely to be in contention for a starting spot for this one. You can find it here…

Head to Head

It’s only a little over a month since these two drew 1-1 at the Kashima Stadium back on August 23rd. Kosuke Onose’s early opener was cancelled out in the final minute of additional time at the end of the game by a header from Tomoya Inukai, though many neutrals may have argued that Antlers deserved more on the balance of play.

The first time I watched Gamba play live in J1 live was actually at home to Kashima on an abnormally cold April afternoon back in 2014, the visitors were victorious 2-0 and I had their “woooooah Kashima” song stuck in my head for about 6 months after that. Later that year, Lins Lima gave Gamba a memorable 3-2 win in Ibaraki, a result that proved crucial in the title race. More recently, the past 4 games between this pair have all finished level, Ryotaro Meshino announcing himself with a fine strike in last year’s home match stands out in particular.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

No new injury worries for Gamba, Yuji Ono (knee) is out for the year, while captain Genta Miura is expected to be on the sidelines for a decent amount of time with a thigh injury. Last I heard Shinya Yajima (ankle) was expected back in October, though it’s not been confirmed exactly when yet. Takashi Usami should be raring to go for this one after starting on the bench in the previous two games.

Kashima Antlers

Right-back Rikuto Hirose injured his hamstring in the home game against Gamba and hasn’t been seen since. Key attacker Shoma Doi has missed the past couple of matches, though I haven’t seen any injury reported and experienced forward Sho Ito hasn’t been involved recently, I’m not sure if that’s fitness related or Zago just not fancying him.

Predicted Line Ups

Gamba Osaka
The solid defensive performance in the last game at Hiroshima will certainly have given proponents of Gamba playing with a 4-4-2 formation plenty of ammunition. I’d expect the best eleven available to start this Saturday and next with maybe a few changes at Tosu in midweek. Yajima will hopefully be back at some point in October to help out Ideguchi and Yamamoto in midfield, but for this game the only potential differences between my lineup and the actual one would likely be Yuya Fukuda playing either at full-back or right-wing and possibly Ademilson starting ahead of Patric.

Kashima Antlers
New kantoku Zago has rotated and switched things about quite a bit so I’m not too confident in my lineup below. If Shoma Doi isn’t fit for selection we could see either Ryotaro Araki or Itsuki Someno get the nod. Elsewhere Daiki Sugioka is a rotation option at left-back, Koki Machida started the season as first choice centre-back before losing his spot to Sekigawa and the experienced Ryota Nagaki can play either right-back or in central midfield.

Match Prediction

Gamba have yet to draw at home in 2020, Kashima are yet to draw away, the last 4 games between these 2 have all been draws, regular readers of my previews will know I love a 1-1 pre-match prediction. I’m tempted to go for a 1-0 in either direction, but can’t say which way so I’ll stick with my tried and trusted 1-1, a result which would probably suit Gamba more than Kashima.


Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Gamba Osaka Review and Weekly Round-Up

The Match

Gamba produced what could arguably be described as their best performance of the year to see off Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 on Sunday night, their third win in-a-row. Lining up once more in a 4-4-2 system, the Nerazzurri made just one alteration to the starting eleven from Wednesday night’s game with Nagoya, Hiroki Fujiharu coming back in for Yuya Fukuda at left wing-back. Fukuda dropped down to the bench where Takashi Usami once again found himself in a bid to give him some much needed rest.

Despite Hiroshima starting the stronger of the two teams, forcing numerous corners and free kicks in dangerous areas during the opening exchanges, Gamba found themselves 2-0 up after just 20 minutes. Captain Shu Kurata had a big hand in both goals, first smashing home an exquisite half-volley after Hayato Araki attempted to head away Kim Young-gwon’s ball over the top…watch the Youtube highlights below if you haven’t already…my words can’t do it justice. Just 4 minutes later Kurata picked up the ball inside his own half, swivelled then dinked a delicious pass over Akira Ibayashi with the outside of his right-boot, Patric raced onto it and also used the outside of his foot to guide the ball past Takuto Hayashi at his near post, the former Sanfrecce hitman made a clear point of not celebrating against his former side, but all credit to him for giving 100% for Gamba.

From this point on the home side had a mountain to climb and after licking their wounds for a good 15 minutes they finished the half strongly. Yuya Asano was denied by Higashiguchi, making his 300th J1 appearance in this game, following an incisive run while Tsukasa Morishima and Douglas Vieira both glanced headers wide from Yoshifumi Kashiwa crosses from the left side. A minute out from the break Morishima played in Asano and Higashiguchi saved well low to his right, forcing the ball for a corner. From the resulting kick, Araki headed the ball against the outside of the post and Gamba were happy to get a 15 minute breather.

Truth be told, the second half onslaught I expected from Sanfrecce never really materialised. They enjoyed lots of possession and territory but wasted a lot of balls over the top and ran down blind alleys in the centre of the park as Gamba’s defence, superbly marshalled by Gen Shoji stood firm. The visitors had just about made it to the key milestone of the second half water break when a spanner was thrown in the works. All of the energy used up in the preceding 70 minutes took its toll and a tired looking Gamba backline allowed the impressive Kashiwa time to deliver an excellent cross and second half sub Leandro Pereira found himself with a free header which he flashed across Higashiguchi and in off the post for his 8th J1 strike of the campaign. After that Sanfrecce didn’t threaten too much, Douglas and Leandro in the same side just doesn’t seem to work for them. Gamba sending on Usami for Ademilson also helped to keep possession in the Hiroshima half, eat up the clock and even come close to bagging a third. Despite a late scare or two in an excessively long additional time period (more on that later) Gamba prevailed 2-1, their first win in Hiroshima since 2016 which eased them up to 7th in the standings with multiple games in hand over Yokohama F.Marinos (5th) and Kashima (6th).

* There’s an old saying that form is temporary, but class is permanent and this year Shu Kurata is the living embodiment of that. It’s not that long since he lost his starting spot to Yuji Ono, yet zip forward a few weeks, throw in Genta Miura’s injury and Kurata is now captaining the side and and has produced great finishes against Sendai and Sanfrecce in addition to his wonderful assist for Patric’s goal.
* Kurata’s renaissance stands in contrast to the performances of Hiroshima’s Tsukasa Morishima. Although he had a couple of decent touches in open play, his set pieces were particularly wasteful and Rhayner immediately improved this when he came on. 23 year-old Morishima was one of J1’s leading assist makers in 2019 with 7 in 24 games, however, this year he has really struggled to get going. Fans of Japanese football in general will surely be hoping he gets back in the groove soon.
* Is it a rule in JLeague that no matter how much additional time is allocated, if it runs out when one team is attacking they get to finish their attack before the referee blows his whistle? The fourth official showed 3 minutes of additional time, Gamba made a late change, bringing on Shuhei Kawasaki for Kosuke Onose which would have added 30 seconds, yet we were still playing with Hiroshima in and around the Gamba box until nearly 95 minutes were up. Are officials worried that attacking team players will criticise them if they blow mid-attack? Surely the fallout of, say Sanfrecce equalising a full minute after the game was supposed to have finished should outweight that consideration? I’ve seen this happen in numerous other games and it’s bothered me, so this isn’t just a gripe because it happened in a Gamba match.
* I’m hopeful that Patric and Usami will be selected to start at home to Kashima next Saturday, just as they were in the away game in Ibaraki. Patric gave Akira Ibayashi, standing in for Yuki Nogami, all kinds of problems on Sunday and it was no co-incidence that both Gamba goals came down Sanfrecce’s right where in addition to Ibayashi, they had Shunki Higashi making his first appearance as a right wing-back. Ademilson didn’t do a whole lot to justify his selection, Usami will be raring to go next week and Patric brings a physical dimension unfound elsewhere in the squad, so it’s Usami and Patric for me.

Gamba MVP

By far the easiest decision I’ve had to make since I started doing these….Shu Kurata. A brilliant finish, superb assist and nice leadership, need I say more?

Gamba U23 Round-Up

Gamba U23 bouced back from a run of 4 successive defeats to stun promotion seeking Roasso Kumamoto at Panasonic Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Make no mistake, the Kyushu side had the chances to win this game comfortably, but they also spent an inordinate amount of time passing the ball about in front of a set Gamba defence which was brilliantly led by Ryo Shinzato, a man who knows how to put the ball in Row Z. Additionally, a high percentage of their shots were either blocked or from well outside the area while the much vaunted Kaito Taniguchi was shown that shooting every time you cut inside won’t be nearly as successful as he moves up through the leagues. This may be a positive function that both Gamba and Cerezo U23 can serve, as both perform more as inexperienced J1 teams rather than your standard J3 outfit.

For the game itself, Roasso struck the bar 3 times in the opening half, twice with looping headers that would have been easily saved had they dropped on target and the other time from a shot by impressive on-loan Tosu left-back Hiroto Ishikawa which cannoned back into the path of Shun Ito who somehow fired the rebound over. The opening 10 minutes after the re-start was an avalanche of Kumamoto pressure with few clear cut chances, Shinzato at centre-back was crucial in getting the ball out of the danger area which contrasted with the benched Jefferson Tabinas who has the tendency to cede possession to the opposition in Gamba’s defensive third.

Tatsuya Yamaguchi, a second half replacement for Keisuke Kurokawa sent a timely reminder of his presence to Gamba top-team kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto with a right-footed rocked that whizzed past Kei Uchiyama low to his left in the 58th minute. Haruto Shirai sealed things 5 minutes from time after a determined run by Shoji Toyama culminated with a pass to the right-winger who coolly shot across Uchiyama from 10 yards.

Gamba U23 Starting XI: GK: Jun Ichimori © (OA), RB: Kohei Okuno, RCB: Riku Matsuda, LCB: Ryo Shinzato (OA), LB: Keisuke Kurokawa, RCM: Ko Ise (Type 2), LCM: Ren Shibamoto, RW: Haruto Shirai, LW: Dai Tsukamoto, CF: Daisuke Takagi (OA) and Shoji Toyama.


Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Gamba Osaka 27/09/2020 Match Preview

Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 19
Edion Stadium Hiroshima
Sunday 27 September 18:00 (JST)

Last Time Out

Gamba recorded an impressive 2-1 win at home to Nagoya Grampus on Wednesday night, their first home three-pointer in 5 games. Kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto retained the 4-4-2 formation used in the win at Sapporo the previous weekend, but made three personnel changes. Yuya Fukuda started at left-back for the first time in J1 in place of Hiroki Fujiharu, Gen Shoji came in for injured captain Genta Miura while Patric started alongside fellow Brazilian Ademilson in attack to give Takashi Usami a well earned breather. Both Usami and Fujiharu began proceedings on the bench.

Grampus edged a scrappy, stop-start first half and went into the interval ahead thanks to Mu Kanazaki’s 21st minute effort. A period of extremely sloppy Gamba defending resulted in a Nagoya corner on the far-side. Yuki Soma’s outswinger was flicked on at the near post by Takuji Yonemoto and Kanazaki showed great desire to barge between Shoji and Ryu Takao and steer the ball past Masaaki Higashiguchi. Later on in the half two events conspired to turn things in Gamba’s favour. First in the 36th minute a long ball put the dangerous Mateus away and Higashiguchi somehow managed to deflect the Brazilian’s shot up and on to the bar. This may have been the turning point as up to that point the game had followed a similar pattern to the 3-1 loss to Urawa, but where Reds were able to bag a second first-half goal and give Gamba a mountain to climb, Grampus couldn’t capitalise and the Nerazzurri remained very much in with a shout. Furthermore, a couple of minutes before the break ex-FC Tokyo holding midfielder Yonemoto lunged in on Ademilson, earning a yellow card and a knee injury in the process. His place was taken by Joao Schmidt, but from then on Gamba took a strong grip on the midfield battle.

Fujiharu replaced Takao at half time which meant Fukuda switched to right-back and after that Gamba didn’t take long to get back on level terms. Following Naoki Maeda’s dragged shot (similar to Yuki Muto’s goal in the aforementioned Urawa game) wide of Higashiguchi’s left hand post, Gamba broke up the other end. Ideguchi played in Onose and he was upended inside the D at the edge of the penalty area by Shinnosuke Nakatani. Yuki Yamamoto and Kim Young-gwon eyed up the resulting free-kick, the right-footed Yamamoto stepped up, the ball was then deflected downwards off a Grampus head in the wall and bounced awkwardly, beating Langerak to his right, 1-1 game on.

Gamba looked the more energetic of the two teams in the final 30 minutes, both Ademilson and Patric gave Langerak cause for concern before the men in blue and black were boosted by a triple switch with 14 minutes remaining. Usami, Watanabe and Endo entered the fray in place of Ademilson, Patric and Yamamoto and two of the subs would have a big hand in the winner. Endo rolled back the years to play a killer ball down the right flank to Onose, the ex-Yamaguchi winger advanced on Langerak and cut it back to Ideguchi who stumbled, but still directed it into Usami’s path. Gamba’s talisman took a touch, looked up and coolly belted the ball into the right-side of the net, 2-1 and 4 points from 2 games against Nagoya this year looks like an excellent haul. Quick stat to finish off, bizarrely Gamba have now scored at least twice in their past 10 league games against Grampus stretching back to 2015.

Sanfrecce were able to extract revenge over their hosts Oita, winning 2-0 in midweek after Trinita had claimed a smash-and-grab 2-1 victory at the Edion Stadium earlier in the campaign. Brazilian forward Douglas Vieira turned the game decisively in the visitors’ favour after his entrance in the 63rd minute, he set up Tsukasa Morishima for the game’s opening goal just 7 minutes later before sealing it with a neat finish 4 minutes from time.

The Lowdown

This may look like the most mid-table clash imaginable with 10th hosting 9th but as with everything this year, things are not what they appear on the surface. Gamba sit 4 points ahead of Sanfrecce and both teams have played half of their 34 league matches, however, crucially they have games in hand over everyone ahead of them in the standings with the exception of Nagoya. Kawasaki look to be waltzing away to a 3rd title in 4 years, but essentially anyone from Cerezo in 2nd down to Hiroshima in 10th could lay claim to one of the ACL berths (whether that’s a blessing or a curse in this current climate really depends on your personal opinion).

It’s interesting to note that Gamba’s 9 wins and 29 points from their opening 17 games (note they’ve played Grampus twice and are yet to face Tosu – though given out recent record in Kyushu that’s not the disadvantage it might seem) compares favourably with 5 wins, 20 points, 13th in J1 in 2019 and 4 wins, 15 points, 16th the year before. Using my rudimentary mathematics, 29 x 2 = 58 and 58 points would have placed Gamba 6th last season and 2nd in 2018! Indeed we won the title in 2014 with just 63 points!

Hiroshima, in a similar vein to Gamba, have struggled to get much of a rhythm going on their home turf this year, taking just 11 points from their 7 matches at Edion Stadium. This has included wins over Kashima (3-0), Shonan (1-0) and Shimizu (4-1), draws with FC Tokyo (3-3) and Vegalta Sendai (1-1) as well as defeats at the hands of Oita and Cerezo (both 2-1). After having the joint second best defence in the league in 2019, letting in just 0.85 goals per game and conceding more than 2 in a single game just once (3-0 at then rampant eventual champions Yokohama F.Marinos), things have been a bit more loose this year with 1.2 opposition strikes per match while FC Tokyo and Yokohama F.Marinos (3 goals each), plus Kawasaki (5) have all punished them dearly for defensive errors.

With no midweek fixture coming up for either side we can expect both to put out full-strength line-ups for this game. Gamba have started collecting injuries lately, but with their burgeoning youth system always on hand to produce another gem I’m not too worried about inexperienced players getting their shot. Sanfrecce do have a number of good youngsters in their ranks, but two of them, Tsukasa Morishima and Keisuke Osako haven’t kicked on as much as they might have hoped after enjoying breakout 2019 campaigns. The starting eleven is likely to contain 6 players aged 30 or over and 2 more who are 29. Left wing-back Yoshifumi Kashiwa missed the earlier match between these two with injury and is a key component for Sanfrecce, both Brazilian attackers Douglas Vieira and Leandro Pereira have 7 league goals for the year (together they’ve netted 54% of Hiroshima’s J1 total), Vieira in particular is enjoying a hot spell with 4 in his last 5, though kantoku Hiroshi Jofuku has struggled to find a system that can get the best out of both of them at the same time. Central midfielder Hayao Kawabe is a player who always impresses me, as is former Gamba Junior Youth centre-back Hayato Araki.

Head to Head

Gamba won a rather dull midweek clash at home to Sanfrecce back in round 6 on July 22nd. Genta Miura headed home Takashi Usami’s corner just before half-time following some uncharacteristically poor Hiroshima defending. Rhayner cleared an effort off the line in the second half and Sanfre were off target with most of their chances as the hosts earned their 4th win of the year.

Gamba’s previous two visits to Hiroshima on league business are ones they’d rather forget. The Nerazzurri were given a sound 3-0 drubbing last April which consigned them to a 4th defeat in 6 games, while 9 months earlier a 4-0 whipping in the first post-2018 World Cup J1 matchday essentially sealed Levir Culpi’s fate with the Brazilian receiving his marching orders following a 2-1 home loss to Shimizu 4 days later. This may all sound very bleak, but it’s worth remembering that prior to 2018 Gamba were on a run of 4 games unbeaten at the Edion Stadium.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

Captain Genta Miura looks set for a spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury picked up against Sapporo last Saturday, the full extent of the damage is as yet unknown. Shinya Yajima should return from his sprained ankle sometime in the first half of October and Yuji Ono is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. Elsewhere, Ryu Takao was subbed at half-time in the win over Nagoya, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with injury. Youngsters Shuhei Kawasaki and Shoji Toyama will hopefully be competing for bench spots again this weekend. Masaaki Higashiguchi will make his 300th J1 appearance in this match.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima

There aren’t really any fitness issues to speak of for Hiroshima, they have a pretty small squad that they rotate reasonably well. Centre-back Kazuki Kushibiki joined last winter from Nagoya after spending the second half of 2019 on loan at Omiya, but hasn’t been spotted in a matchday squad this year, while Gamba fans favourite Kohei Shimizu has been out of contention for a while too. As neither would be regular starters, their absence may simply be down to non-selection.

Predicted Line Ups

With Miura likely to be missing I believe we’ll go 4-4-2 for the third game running. Whether Fukuda is considered a genuine full-back now after playing there against Nagoya, we’ll have to see. With 6 days before the next game at home to Kashima it’s more than likely we’ll see a full strength Gamba, I for one would like to see Usami partnered by Patric as I feel the big man would definitely be up for it against his former club.

Although they’ve rotated quite a bit in recent weeks, it’s not difficult to spot most of the first choice starters for Sanfrecce. Hayashi has been starting in goal ahead of Osaka in recent weeks, I’m not sure the logic behind dropping your up-and-coming 21 year-old for a 38 year-old veteran in this year of all years, but there you go. Nogami, Araki and Sasaki will almost certainly be the back 3 and Kawabe and Aoyama should play in central midfield. Rhayner appears to be first choice right wing-back but Chajima may start ahead of him here. In attack, as mentioned before, sticking Douglas Vieira at right-wing screams of trying to shove square pegs into round holes, but it seems that Jofuku has figured that having he and Morishima playing off Leandro Pereira is better than having Higashi, Notsuda or Ezequiel in the mix.

Match Prediction

A very close game which could be decided by a defensive or refereeing error, I’ll say Gamba will keep up their decent 2020 away form and eek out an at times seat-of-the-pants 1-1 draw.


Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus 23/09/2020 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Nagoya Grampus
J1 2020 Round 18
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Wednesday 23 September 19:00 (JST)

We’re officially into the second half of the 2020 campaign after squeezing in 16 rounds in under 3 months! If this season’s schedule is taking a heavy toll on you, don’t worry you’re not alone. Hopefully this preview can give you all the information you need ahead of this battle between two of J1’s perennial heavyweights.

The Lowdown

The current J1 standings show Nagoya in 4th spot after taking 30 points from 16 matches, Gamba are 5 places and 4 points worse off than their visitors, but crucially both sides have a number of games in hand over most of their rivals so are in with a real shout of securing ACL football next year. Grampus’ impressive form under the previously much-maligned Italian Massimo Ficcadenti has been one of the surprises of the year and Gamba’s 2-2 draw in Aichi in round 3 looks better and better with each passing week.

After announcing themselves as creditable contenders with a 1-0 win over runaway leaders Kawasaki back on August 23rd (to date they are still the only team to beat Frontale this year), Nagoya have suffered a dip in form with 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats in their next 5 league matches as well as being dumped out of the Levain Cup, 3-0 at the hands of FC Tokyo. They’ve picked up a respectable 14 points on the road this year, just 3 shy of Gamba’s total with both sides having played 8 away games. With that said though, their only road win at top half opposition was on their last trip to Osaka when they upset Cerezo 2-0 at Nagai Stadium a mere 4 days after their 2-2 draw at home to Gamba.

Gamba will be desperate to put their home woes behind them having now lost 4 in a row on their own turf. As I seem to say every week on this blog, getting the first goal will be crucial, Gamba are unbeaten in 2020 when they’ve led at any time in a game. However, Nagoya are one of only two teams to have come from behind to earn a point against Gamba this year, Kashima being the other.

With this being a three matchday week, rotation is to be expect, although these two sides have perhaps switched things up less than many other teams. It’ll be interesting to see if Grampus’ summer signing from Gamba, Oh Jae-suk makes an appearance, while the popular Hiroyuki Abe will surely get a pleasant reception if he takes the field. The two goal-scorers for Nagoya in the 2-2 draw back in July, Mateus and Gabriel Xavier should again pose the greatest threat to Gamba’s rearguard, though both Naoki Maeda and Mu Kanazaki must be kept an eye on too. Gamba supporters would love to see Takashi Usami return to goalscoring form, he’s found the back of the net just once in his last 9 outings. Usami’s good friend Yosuke Ideguchi has been in excellent form in midfield, but I can’t be the only one fretting over his fitness as with Yajima and Ono already out, the loss of the Japan international would be catastrophic for the Nerazzurri.

Head to Head

This is the second clash between these two this season with the first taking place just over two months ago on July 8th at Toyota Stadium. Genta Miura gave Gamba an early lead, but this was quickly cancelled out after strikes from Mateus and Gabriel Xavier, before Kazuma Watanabe earned the men from Suita a share of the spoils with an equaliser in additional time at the end of the game.

As you can see in the table below, Grampus have an excellent recent record in this fixture, winning 3-2 in both of their previous two trips to Suita. We have to go back to 2016, the year Nagoya were relegated to J2, to find Gamba’s last triumph.

I’ve never actually seen a Gamba vs Nagoya game live at the stadium, so my strongest memory is Nagoya’s 1-0 win at Expo 70’ Memorial Stadium back in August 2014 which was the only home defeat Gamba suffered in the second half of that memorable year. Leandro Domingues got the winner late on and since then I’ve always had it in my head that Grampus are a real bogey team for Gamba.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

The big concern for Gamba is captain Genta Miura limping off in the second half of Saturday’s game with Sapporo with what looked like a leg muscle injury. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out for, but at least there is a lot of cover in his position. Yuji Ono (knee) is done for the year and Shinya Yajima (ankle) has missed the past 4 matches, no date has been set for his return. If Gamba continue to use the 4-4-2 formation, we could see Keisuke Kurokawa promoted from the U23s to compete for a slot at left-back while Yuya Fukuda will become a viable option on the left wing or in central midfield. Kantoku Miyamoto has said that we can expect to see Shoji Toyama in the top team at some point this year, but it’ll probably be next month at the earliest.

Nagoya Grampus

Attacking midfielder Aria Jasour Hasegawa is a long term absentee with a broken leg. Right-back Kazuya Miyahara should be over his bout of COVID-19, but after being first choice in 2019, he’s been completely out of the picture this time out. Versatile midfielder Ryota Aoki missed the whole of last campaign and briefly returned this year, but has now disappeared from the matchday squad, I can’t find any confirmation of whether he’s injured again or just out of favour.

Predicted Line Ups

I’m going with the assumption that Miyamoto will stick with 4-4-2, especially if, as seems likely, Miura won’t be fit enough to play. Should he opt for 3-5-2 then we should see Takao slot in alongside Shoji and Kim at centre-back, Onose and either Fujiharu, Fukuda or Kurokawa will take up the wing back spots. In central-midfield Yuki Yamamoto will again be the anchor with Ideguchi and Kurata ahead of him and Usami will be partnered in attack by either (in order of likelihood), Ademilson, Watanabe or Patric.

Kantoku Massimo Ficcadenti favours a 4-2-3-1 formation and has shown little desire to rotate his troops any more than necessary. It’s possible that left-back Yutaka Yoshida could switch to the right to accommodate ex-Tokyo man Kosuke Ota on the left. In midfield Sho Inagaki, probably one of the best transfers of winter 2019/20, has been an ever present, but Brazilian Joao Schmidt may partner him instead of Takuji Yonemoto. The attacking midfield roles have decent depth and dangerous former-Gamba title winner Hiroyuki Abe is an option just off Kanazaki while Yuki Soma may be selected on the left-wing, both Mateus and Gabriel Xavier can play on the right if any re-shuffle is required.

Match Prediction

It’s a tough one to call with so many factors up in the air in this unique COVID affected year. Nagoya are always a tough nut for Gamba to crack and it’ll be tougher than ever now that they seem to have pulled their socks up under Ficcadenti. Don’t be surprised to see Grampus leave Suita with all 3 points, but I’ll be positive and opt for a competitive 1-1 draw.


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0-1 Gamba Osaka and Weekly Round-Up

The Match

Not one that will live long in the memory, as DAZN’s sub 5 minute highlights package will attest to, but the three points were all that mattered from a Gamba perspective. This victory was the Nerazzurri’s fifth on the road in 2020 which means they’ve already equalled 2019’s total after only 8 matches.

Kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto responded to his side’s recent slump in form by switching to a 4-4-2 formation for the first time since the 2-1 win at Shimizu back in round 4 and he was rewarded with the team’s first clean sheet in 9 matches. Hiroki Fujiharu, Kim Young-gwon and Ademilson came in for Yuya Fukuda, Gen Shoji and Kazuma Watanabe who all found themselves on the bench.

In my pre-match preview I mistakenly assumed this clash would take place at the Sapporo Dome when in fact it was scheduled for Consadole’s second home, Atsubetsu Stadium. The thick grass and bumpy surface was more akin to what I’ve seen the U23s play on in places such as Akita and Toyama and greatly hindered the match as a spectacle.

Gamba threatened early with captain Genta Miura flashing a header just over from Takashi Usami’s corner before Usami and Ademilson both fluffed their lines, heading Kosuke Onose crosses wide from decent areas. Sapporo, who looked like a shadow of the side that played with such attacking verve against Urawa and Tosu in the past week, rarely threatened Masaaki Higashiguchi’s goal. Despite Shunta Tanaka and the omnipresent Takuma Arano looking sharp, Yoshiaki Komai’s dragged shot wide was as close as they came in the opening period.

The second stanza continued in much the same way as the first with both teams sharing spells of possession and penetrating the opposition’s final third, but not really looking likely to score once they got there. Gamba suffered a blow in the 72nd minute when Miura, an ever-present this year, went down with what looked like a leg muscle injury. Gen Shoji took his place with Shu Kurata taking over the captain’s armband, Endo and Watanabe also entered the fray in a triple change. Watanabe took just 4 minutes to make his mark by scoring his 3rd goal off the bench in 2020. Following a Sapporo corner, Kurata and Endo worked the ball out to the left flank where Ryu Takao (only he knows why he was there) was charging. The normally right-sided Kwansei Gakuin graduate fed Hiroki Fujiharu whose pinpoint cross was met by Watanabe. Consadole ‘keeper Takanori Sugeno brilliantly tipped the header onto his right-hand post, but the ball rebounded for King Kazu who made no mistake. Despite huffing and puffing for the remainder of the game, Sapporo had ultimately run out of steam due to their hectic schedule and it finished 1-0 to Gamba.


* Not mentioned above, but Gamba had strong claims for a penalty against Sapporo’s stand-in skipper Arano who handled inside his own box in the 45th minute, personally I’m not convinced it was a spot kick. There was also another controversial incident at the end of the Cerezo Osaka vs Kashima Antlers game where Leo Silva’s arm made contact with a goal-bound effort, but no penalty was awarded. My question is, were either of these handballs any less of a penalty than the ones given against Kim Young-gwon (vs FC Tokyo) or Yuki Soma (Nagoya vs Sapporo)? FC Tokyo’s Leandro was in the headlines this week after having a moan on Twitter about inconsistent officiating following a couple of decisions against his side in their 3-2 home loss to Oita on Wednesday. I’m sure most JLeague fans could get behind the crux of his argument, though perhaps not the one-eyed nature of it. For me, he would have done well to acknowledge that his side have both gained and lost as a result of poor refereeing this year, the Kim and Leo Silva incidents above were chosen for a reason. What do you think?
* Following the switch to 4-4-2 and the potential loss of Miura at the back, Gamba have a few selection quandaries ahead of a tough week of games with Nagoya (home – Wednesday) and Hiroshima (away – Sunday) looming large on the horizon. Keisuke Kurokawa has been in sparkling form for the U23s in their past 2 games in J3, he, unlike, Yuya Fukuda, is a left-back in a 4-4-2 system, it would be good to see the former Kansai University star get a top team start in the near future. Speaking of Fukuda, it was interesting to note that he replaced Shu Kurata in the 89th minute on Saturday and took over the left central-midfield position, could this be a realistic option going forward with no Yuji Ono for the rest of 2020?
* Last year I raved about Consadole Sapporo defender Ryosuke Shindo, but echoing Sam Robson on the J-Talk Podcast, I agree that he seems to have gone off the boil this year. Ryu Takao has really grown and has performed well at right-centre back, right-back and right wing-back this season, would I be going out on a limb by saying that I now rate Takao as the better prospect? Both were born within 5 months of each other and play the same position, have I over-reacted to a short-spell of form or is the Gamba man now the superior player?
* Finally, a quick question for any Sapporo fans who may be reading. Are ticket prices for games at Sapporo Dome and Atsubetsu Stadium comparable? The poor quality playing surface and dated facilities at Atsubetsu would surely call for some kind of discount for the paying public, no?

Gamba MVP

Kosuke Onose was Gamba’s main attacking weapon in the first half and was unlucky not to bag an assist or two, but I’m going to award this to someone I’ve not shied away from criticising in the past, Genta Miura. After looking leggy in the past couple of matches, the Japan international was back to his best on Saturday. He dealt with the physical and aerial threat of first Jay, and later, briefly, Douglas Oliveira, before having to leave the field early. Hopefully his substitution was just a precaution and he’ll be back soon.

Under 23 Round Up

Gamba’s U23 side produced a sloppy defensive display to go down 3-2 to Vanraure Hachinohe on Saturday night. Goals at the start of both halves from Yosuke Kamigata and Taichi Nakamura meant Gamba were fighting an uphill battle for most of the game. Keisuke Kurokawa, once again the team’s best player cancelled out Hachinohe’s opener after 13 minutes following good play down the right from Haruto Shirai. Jiro Nakamura, making his first J3 appearance of 2020 as a second-half replacement then forced an own goal after an incisive run and cross in the 76th minute. However, Gamba were carved open once again just 8 minutes later, and another substitute, Taisuke Akiyoshi won the match for the Tohoku side with a fine finish. This was their first ever win over Gamba U23 after 2 draws in 2019 and also the first time they’d scored more than twice in a game this year.

Gamba U23 line-up: GK: Ichimori, RCB: Matsuda, CB: Tabinas ©, LCB: Yamaguchi, RWB: Shirai, RCM: Ise (Type 2), DM: Okuno, LCM: Shibamoto, LWB: Kurokawa, CF: Tsukamoto and Toyama.

Next Match: Tuesday 22 September vs Iwate Grulla Morioka (a) Kick Off: 13:00


Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo vs Gamba Osaka 19 September 2020 Match Preview

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo vs Gamba Osaka
J1 2020 Round 17
Sapporo Dome
Saturday 19 September 14:00 (JST)

It’s officially the half-way point in the J1 League campaign this week, though a quick glance at the number of games each team have played may tell an altogether different story. A quick caveat, I wrote about 60% of this preview before I realised Sapporo were playing in midweek, I’ve tried to make all the necessary changes, but apologies in advance if anything slipped through the net.

The Lowdown

Sapporo come into this match fresh (well maybe not as they played on Wednesday) off a 2-0 win in their re-arranged match at Sagan Tosu, this was the first time they’d taken all 3 points for 10 league games. Gamba, by contrast, started 2020 with 5 wins and 16 points from their opening 7 fixtures, but since the start of August, they’ve lost 5 of 8 games and taken just 7 points. Sapporo currently sit 13th in the table, 6 points and 4 places shy of Gamba, but with an additional 2 matches played. Due to sharing Sapporo Dome with the Nippon Ham Fighters in NPB and also travel restrictions after the league’s re-start in June, they’ve been handed a lopsided schedule with long stretches of away games at the beginning and end of the year bookending a mid-season laden with matches in Hokkaido. The mid-year departures of goalkeeper Gu Sung-yun (Daegu) and the prolific Musashi Suzuki (Germinal Beerschot) have made my pre-season prediction of a 14th place finish look better than it otherwise could have.

The good thing about Consadole from a neutral perspective is that their games are always a good watch. I was treated to quite the match when I tuned into their 4-3 home defeat at the hands of Urawa last weekend. Head coach Mischa Petrovic’s footballing philosophy is simple, attack! attack! attack! The formation you’ll see at the start of the game, and the positions you’ll often see the players appear in during the 90 minutes will vary wildly. Expect to see right-sided centre-back Ryosuke Shindo regularly overlap right wing-back Lucas Fernandes and link up with the Brazilian and Yoshiaki Komai. In the middle of the park, Takuma Arano and Shunta Tanaka will often drop deep into defence to give captain and centre-back Hiroki Miyazawa the chance to bomb forward. All of this switching around can make them hard to handle, but also allows plentiful opportunities to counter attack against the league’s least structured defence. At present only Shimizu (40) have conceded more than Consadole’s 34 in 17 matches.

With neither side in great form, issues like Sapporo having a mere 64 ½ hours between full-time in Tosu and kick-off on their home turf at the other end of Japan on Saturday, could play a big role. Gamba would do well to aim for an early goal as they are yet to lose after scoring first, this stat also stands true if they hold the lead at half time. By contrast, they’ve only come from behind to win once this year, and in that match with Oita, they only trailed for 4 minutes.

Head to Head

These two teams have really only been playing each other regularly since Sapporo became a J1 staple in 2017, all the recent results can be seen in the table below. Personal highlights of mine would, of course, include the 5-0 rout in Suita last October with all the goals coming in the second half. Jungo Fujimoto’s beautiful finish in the 2-0 victory at the Sapporo Dome in 2017 is another great memory as is the 3-0 home win back during the J2 title-winning season of 2013, one of my first ever Gamba games which featured a fine, solo Takashi Usami effort as well as a rare effort from Takaharu Nishino, then a highly-rated prospect before having his career decimated by injuries. Ken Tokura’s 95th minute equaliser at Panasonic Stadium in Miyamoto’s 5th game in charge back in 2018 and a limp 1-0 defeat in the first ever Expo Match in 2017 were particularly tough to take.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

As mentioned previously Yuji Ono (knee) is out for the season while Shinya Yajima (ankle) has missed the past 3 matches and no time-frame has been given for his return. This fixture marks the start of another 3 game match week with difficult looking future opponents in the shape of Nagoya (home) and Hiroshima (away) looming on the horizon, as a result some rotation can be expected. I’d love to see young Shuhei Kawasaki get a start while solid showings from Ryu Takao and Yuya Fukuda against Shonan should hopefully see them retain their places. Shoji Toyama and Dai Tsukamoto both sat out Gamba U23s game with Kataller Toyama last weekend and must be in with a shout of at least some bench time in J1 soon. Kim Young-gwon wasn’t in the squad for the Bellmare game, but I believe he was just being rested. Takashi Usami will make his 150th J1 appearance if selected for this encounter.

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Sapporo don’t have a whole lot of injury issues to contend with. Backup ‘keeper Shunta Awaka is out for the year and defender Naoki Ishikawa hasn’t been spotted in a matchday squad in 2020. Other than that though, fatigue is the only factor likely to rule anyone else out of this clash.

Know Your Opponent – Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo

Kantoku: Mihailo Petrovic Appointed: 1 February 2018, Record: P 85 W 32 D 22 L 31 F 125 A 131 Points Per Game 1.4 Failed to Score 19 Clean Sheets 22

GK #1 Takanori Sugeno – Hugely experienced former Yokohama FC, Kashiwa and Kyoto ‘keeper who took over the number one spot following Gu’s departure during the lockdown. Now in his third year in Sapporo with the first two actually spent on loan from Sanga before he made the deal permanent last winter. It’s likely that he’s just keeping the spot warm before the 2m tall Kojiro Nakano joins next season, Gamba fans will remember him as he was Hosei University’s goalkeeper in their 2-0 Emperor’s Cup win last August.

RCB #3 Ryosuke Shindo – He’ll be named as the right-sided centre-back, but like Ryu Takao, expect to see him bombing forward on the outside of his right-winger. Bagged a hugely impressive 6 goals and 2 assists from defence in 2019, but hasn’t got close to those heights this year.

CB #10 Hiroki Miyazawa © – Mr. Sapporo, centre-back or central-midfielder Miyazawa has been with Consadole since leaving high school back in 2008. He’s closing in on 400 JLeague appearances and at the age of 31 still seems to have plenty of fuel left in the tank.

LCB #5 Akito Fukumori – Moved north to Hokkaido from his native Kanagawa in 2015 after 4 seasons largely spent as a Kawasaki reserve. Possesses a wonderful delivery from both corners and free-kicks which he showcased to devastating effect against Urawa last Sunday. His inch perfect cross for Jay’s second goal against Reds was surprisingly his first assist of the year, in 2019 he provided 8 which put him joint 3rd in J1 alongside Ademilson and Kyogo Furuhashi.

RWB #7 Lucas Fernandes – Now in his second season in Sapporo, Lucas initially came in on loan from Fluminense in his native Brazil, but after a successful first year which saw him play 31 times in J1, he made the deal permanent in the off-season. He looks to be one of Consadole’s main attacking weapons down the right flank, though maybe it’s not such a good idea to let him take penalties. He missed a vital spot kick in the final minute of additional time in a 0-0 draw with Nagoya a few weeks back.

RCM #27 Takuma Arano – Would probably be named most disliked player by opposition fans if such a vote were ever to take place, though I’m sure he’d take that as a compliment. Arano’s off-the-ball antics often overshadow what a fine, versatile attacking option he is. Most at home in the middle of the park, he’s also been called into action in more advanced areas due to a lack of alternatives and has re-paid his coach with 4 goals already this season.

LCM #32 Shunta Tanaka – Centre-back or central midfielder currently in his rookie season after joining from Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences (Hiroki Fujiharu’s old stamping ground). Osaka- native Tanaka was actually called up to the Japan national team squad while still a student, though he didn’t win any caps, he’s also a strong contender to be selected for the Tokyo Olympics squad.

LWB #4 Daiki Suga – Attacker who Petrovic has converted into a dangerous left wing-back. Suga, like Shindo and Arano is a Sapporo U-18 graduate who turned pro in 2017 after making 5 appearances as a type-2 player in Consadole’s promotion winning season the year before. He has been capped by Japan at all levels from U17 through U23 and scored on his senior team debut against Hong Kong in the East Asian Cup last December. Was an unused squad member in last year’s Copa America.

RAM #14 Yoshiaki Komai – Spent 5 seasons with Kyoto after coming through their youth system and made well over 150 J2 appearances with Sanga. Got his big move to Urawa and after two decent years in Saitama he made the move north to link up once more with his former Reds coach Petrovic. Injury limited him to just 3 league games in 2019, but he’s back fit and firing this term.

LAM #18 Chanathip Songkrasin – One of the league’s leading assist makers, the 158cm Chanathip even chipped in with a rare header away to Sendai earlier in the campaign. Capable of playing just off the main striker or as a false-nine, Gamba will need to be very wary of his trickery and ability to slip between the defensive and midfield lines.

CF #48 Jay Bothroyd – Has been in Japan since 2015 when he was recruited by Jubilo Iwata in J2. After helping them gain promotion to the top flight at the first time of asking, he’s gone about building himself an impressive legacy. Now in his fourth year in Hokkaido, the 38 year-old is still able to bully defenders and poses a real aerial threat in the box as evidenced by his headed double against Urawa last weekend.

Other Options – Tall South Korean centre-back Kim Min-tae could be used if Petrovic wants to move Miyazawa into the middle of the park. Youth team graduate Kazuki Fukai has been a regular in central midfield for the past 2 seasons, though he seems to have fallen out of favour recently due to Tanaka’s emergence. Tomoki Takamine and Takuro Kaneko are 2 rookies who’ve been used in a number of roles this campaign, but have yet to nail down starting spots while Ryota Hayasaka, Kosuke Shirai and Yoshihiro Nakano are wide players who haven’t seen much game time in 2020. In attack, dangerous Brazilian forward Anderson Lopes is now back from an extended visit to his homeland, however, he hasn’t yet regained the form that saw him net 9 goals in 25 J1 games in 2019, and compatriot Douglas Oliveira recruited out of Serie C in his home country last winter has flattered to deceive thus far in his Sapporo career.

Predicted Line Ups

Match Prediction

I’ve reached a pessimistic point in my Gamba predictions and see Sapporo, buoyed by snapping their winless run, taking this one rather comfortably, I’ll go 3-1 to the hosts.