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Gamba Osaka vs Cerezo Osaka 16 July 2022 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Cerezo Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 22
Saturday 16 July 2022
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Kick Off: 19:00 (JST)

The final round of J1 fixtures before the two-week break to make way for the EAFF Cup sees Gamba host Cerezo in a vitally important Osaka Derby at Panasonic Stadium. Both sides are involved in battles at opposite ends of the table making the outcome of this particular contest of huge interest to fans of a number of clubs, not least the passionate supporters in Osaka. With that said, tempers have boiled over at times in the 3 previous meetings between the Nerazzurri and the Cherry Blossoms this year, so let’s hope everyone is on their best behaviour for this clash. Gamba were thrashed 4-0 away at defending champions Kawasaki last Saturday after playing 83 minutes with 10 men due to Kohei Okuno’s VAR assisted red card. Frontale were 4 up at the interval and then Masaaki Higashiguchi bailed the Nerazzurri out on numerous occasions in the second-half meaning that the Ao to Kuro were spared any further indignity. Cerezo raced into a 2-0 lead at home to league leaders Yokohama F. Marinos on Sunday night thanks to quality strikes from Mutsuki Kato and Adam Taggart. However, Marinos underlined their title credentials with a dramatic late fightback courtesy of a Léo Ceará brace. His first came from the penalty spot after an incident which saw Ryosuke Yamanaka ordered off for a DOGSO offence, and the Brazilian completed the fightback with a beautiful glancing header from Tomoki Iwata’s cross in the 92nd minute. Gamba lie just 1 place and a solitary point above the promotion / relegation playoff spot and indeed could find themselves bottom of the pile after this weekend’s action should results conspire against them. Things are far more rosy in Cerezo’s garden with yet another top 4 finish seemingly possible. The stakes couldn’t be higher for Tomohiro Katanosaka and his Gamba side, it’s a game that could make-or-break their season while Akio Kogiku’s Cherry Blossoms should be the more confident of the two outfits and will be seeking to extend their recent dominance over their prefectural rivals.

Tale of the Tape



The Frontale game was the terminus of a run of fixtures which saw Gamba in action Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, while their opponents had the 2 preceding midweeks free. Add that to the fact the Nerazzurri were forced to play 10 vs 11 for 83 minutes after Kohei Okuno’s early red-card on Saturday and I’ve been left feeling like there’s very little to comment on from a statistical perspective. But, I can’t leave this section completely blank so here goes. Perhaps most interestingly, Frontale struck 4 times from just 8 efforts and an xG of 1 in the opening period, before failing to add to their score after the break despite racking up 16 shots and 1.73xG (after losing at Todoroki 4-1 last year and 5-0 in 2020, maybe 4-0 with 10 men wasn’t such a bad performance after all?) Needless to say, the guardian deity Masaaki Higashiguchi was in fine form with 5 saves in total including 4 from inside the box, what would Gamba have done without him? The loss in Kanagawa extended the Ao to Kuro’s horror run on the road to 5 defeats on the spin and it now seems that Katanosaka will need to rely largely on home form to dig the Nerazzurri out of trouble. Beyond Saturday’s Derby lies bouts with Kyoto and Shimizu (both in Suita) plus Fukuoka away sandwiched in the middle, that trio of fixtures will unquestionably go a long way to shaping the rest of the blue and black’s season. Of course, the transfer window has now opened in Japan meaning that Musashi Suzuki and Ryotaro Meshino are eligible to play against Cerezo. Suzuki has a fortnight of training with his new team-mates under his belt and could start, something made all the more likely by Katanosaka’s decision to play high school third-grader Harumi Minamino ahead of Patric during last Saturday’s ill fated visit to Kawasaki. Isa Sakamoto was being rested, but Patric hadn’t accumulated enough minutes to warrant getting rotated out, suggesting to me that the Brazilian’s days as a starter are essentially behind him. Therefore, it’s Suzuki and / or Sakamoto leading the line for me this week. A couple of other selection quirks that we had a mere 7 minutes to digest were Shota Fukuoka starting ahead of Ryu Takao at right back (the early signs were not good) and Kosuke Onose on the left wing, Hiroto Yamami on the right and captain Shu Kurata up top with Minamino. I went into detail a few previews ago about Katanosaka regularly shifting from a back 3 to a back 4 and how much this irritated me, well he did it again versus Kawasaki. I get that he doesn’t yet have the players he wants at his disposal, there were scheduling issues and I’m not sure what’s going on with Kwon Kyung-won, all I can say is I hope and pray Katanosaka and the front desk have gotten together and worked out a proper battle plan for this summer’s transfer window.



Cerezo come into this installment of the Osaka Derby 6th in J1 a mere 2 points behind 4th placed Hiroshima (how those late dropped points against Antlers and Marinos last week are hurting now) and have accrued an equal 50% of their 32 points at home and on the road. Their away tally has come from one game fewer and from a statistical point of view they have overachieved somewhat outside the confines of the Yodoko Sakura Stadium. In front of goal, they’re netting 0.6 more goals per game than their xG total suggests they should, while it’s a little less pronounced at the other end of the field as they’re conceding 0.16 fewer times per 90 minutes compared with their xG against figure. Additionally, when on their travels the Cherry Blossoms have been outshot by 3 efforts per game, so in the light of that, a lot of credit should go to their clinical attackers. It has very much been a team effort at Cerezo as Mutsuki Kato’s wonderful finish against Marinos last Sunday took him clear as their top scorer in J1, though even he only has 4 goals while 5 players are tied on 3 strikes apiece. In terms of creativity, it’s a similar story as left-back Ryosuke Yamanaka plus midfielders Riki Harakawa, Seiya Maikuma and Tokuma Suzuki lead the way with 3 assists each. The driving force behind the side is Hiroaki Okuno who has covered a league best 248.7 km this season and although in my mind he is more of an attacking force, it’s his defensive stats that have really stood out in 2022. He ranks in the top 10 in the division for, interceptions (13, 2nd) tackles (60, 6th), blocks (54, 6th) and recoveries (71 10th). A couple of other veterans I’d like to shine a light on are, first of all, right-back Riku Matsuda, who has really had to up his game following the arrival of Seiya Maikuma. The former FC Tokyo man has made the 3rd most blocks in J1 this campaign (58), is ranked 5th for recoveries (81) and 7th for crosses (66). Lastly is Cerezo’s very own guardian deity, Kim Jin-hyeon, who despite a couple of dicey moments in recent weeks has generally been a rock at the back for the Sakura and his 61 saves in 21 outings sees him rank 2nd for that particular metric. Ahead of the previous Osaka Derby in round 14, I pointed out that Cerezo hadn’t won back-to-back J1 games all year up until that point and indeed had the Nerazzurri come out on top in that tussle then they’d have overtaken their prefectural rivals. However, the Cherry Blossoms’ 3-1 triumph in May was the first of three victories on the spin which actually remains their only winning streak of the 2022 campaign so far. Cerezo are W3D3L1 over the 7 matchdays since 21 May with their only defeat a 2-1 loss at Hiroshima, by contrast Gamba have gone W1D1L5 and, by chance, their only win in that time period came against Sanfrecce.



First Match Recap

Gamba were humbled by Cerezo 3-1 at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium in round 14, a chastening defeat that extended the Nerazzurri’s hunt for a league derby win to over 3 years. Due to the condensed nature of the 2022 season, the last match between these bitter rivals took place a mere 2 months ago and it was a day all of a blue and black persuasion would rather forget. Things started promisingly with Hiroto Yamami arriving at the back post to nod home Leandro Pereira’s cross despite Kim Jin-hyeon’s best efforts to convince everyone the ball hadn’t crossed the line. It was Yamami’s first goal of the campaign and it sent Gamba into the sheds one up. That was as good as it got, as soon after the re-start Adam Taggart fired home the equaliser from close range, the big Australian profiting from Genta Miura’s attempted clearance falling fortuitously into his path. Then, midway through the second period Hiroaki Okuno rose highest to power a header past Jun Ichimori in the visitors’ goal and turn the tables. Tempers flared and team-mates Gen Shoji and Leandro Pereira had to be separated by both Gamba and Cerezo players after a verbal altercation with 3 minutes of normal time remaining. A last gasp chance was then spurned by the Nerazzurri as Hideki Ishige’s free-kick failed to find a Gamba head, Cerezo broke quickly and that man Okuno sealed the deal with his second of the day. The drama wasn’t finished there though as the Ao to Kuro players and fans exchanged words at the final whistle, a couple of plastic bottles and a drumstick were reportedly thrown and an entire supporters group ended up getting banned from attending matches indefinitely. A horrible day on and off the field for the club and like that D:Ream song from the 90s, ‘things can only get better’ this time round surely.



Gamba Osaka

I’d just like to quickly point you in the direction of this week’s episode of the J-Talk Podcast where I filled in for the holidaying Sam Robson and discussed round 21 as well as all things Gamba. Certain comments I said on there may overlap with my thoughts below, but as they say in Japanese 仕様がない…it can’t be helped.

The first order of business is Tomohiro Katanosaka and his future at the club. Having been assistant to both Akira Nishino and Kenta Hasegawa during the most successful spells in Gamba’s history, Katanosaka has a lot of goodwill and support from the fanbase as a whole, a completely different set of circumstances to, say, the Levir Culpi era of 2018. Players such as Ju Se-jong, Leandro Pereira and Wellington Silva were all meant to be part of Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s system last year until Covid struck and Miyamoto got canned early in the season. Katanosaka has now had 6 months to run the rule over the squad, identify who he wants to keep, and who he doesn’t. From my perspective, changing coaches mid-summer with the transfer window open would be madness. Get the kantoku working in unison with the front office and arm him with the weapons he requires to move the Nerazzurri forward rather than bringing in a new face who’d likely spend the rest of the season getting up to speed, something the club simply cannot afford to allow given their current perilous state near the foot of the table. I’m still behind Katanosaka and honestly I’d probably back him even if the Ao to Kuro do the unimaginable (or very imaginable in Japanese football) and drop down to J2 for next year. To those in the ‘Katanosaka Out’ camp, I’d say bear in mind that Gamba haven’t been in the bottom 3 since after the round 1 loss to Kashima so bringing in a Japanese Sam Allardyce type may generate headlines of them having ‘saved’ the Nerazzurri from the drop while the reality might state that results hardly improved despite significant upgrades being made to the playing staff over the summer. I’m all ears to comments saying Katanosaka could, and should be doing better, however, I don’t see a silver bullet solution. The club’s front office have done nothing in the past 2 decades to show they could attract a Postecoglou or a Skibbe, there are numerous players on high salaries doing little to justify their hefty pay cheques, and at present it feels like narrowly escaping the drop under a caretaker would be akin to bandaging up a wound that requires pretty urgent surgery (relegation).

Transfer Round Up – Ryotaro Meshino became Gamba’s second summer recruit on 8 July when he put pen to paper on a permanent deal from English giants Manchester City who had loaned him out to Estoril in Portugal’s top flight during the 2021/2022 European season. Gamba youth academy graduate Meshino, who netted eye-catching goals against Tosu, Shonan and Kashima in 2019 before his move to the UK is, in theory, fit and ready to play this Saturday and I see him as a potential bench option with fellow new signing Musashi Suzuki possibly leading the line from kick-off. On Thursday (14 July) it was confirmed that Ju Se-jong would return to him homeland to link up with K2 outfit Daejeon Citizen on a loan deal, though judging by his comments it appears unlikely he’ll be back in Suita anytime soon. He had spoken of his desire to return to the South Korean national team set-up before the World Cup, but unfortunately a move to the second tier would appear to have killed his chances stone dead.

Emperor’s Cup Wrap – Gamba bowed out of the Emperor’s Cup at the last 16 stage on Wednesday after going down 2-0 away to Kashima Antlers. Brazilian duo Diego Pituca and Everaldo sent the Stags on their way to their 4th victory over the Nerazzurri in all competitions this year. Gamba kantoku Tomohiro Katanosaka fielded a pretty strong lineup and may live to regret that as Dawhan seemed to be struggling with his hamstring towards the end of the game while Kohei Okuno, suspended for Saturday’s Derby, surprisingly remained an unused sub. It should also be noted that upcoming opponents Cerezo were able to rest a number of their key players, yet still advanced to the quarter-finals with Hirotaka Tameda’s late winner sparing them the potentially draining experience of extra-time in their away tie with Nagoya Grampus.

Team News

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

GK Jun Ichimori – 2 dislocated fingers in right hand, expected back in August at the earliest

DF Kwon Kyung-won – Has missed the past 3 games after going down with what appeared to be cramp near the end of the match with Urawa on 2 July. On 11 July he was named in the South Korea squad for the EAFF Cup which suggests any issue he’s had isn’t too serious.

MF Dawhan – Appeared to have a problem with his hamstring at the end of the Emperor’s Cup tie with Kashima, I don’t know any more than that

MF Yuya Fukuda – Underwent shoulder surgery in May, shown jogging on the club’s official YouTube channel on 8 July, potentially back in August

MF Jiro Nakamura – Hasn’t been involved in the matchday squad in recent weeks, an injury is suspected, but nothing has been confirmed by the club

MF Kohei Okuno – Suspended for one match after receiving a red card versus Kawasaki last week

MF Kosuke Onose – Sat out Wednesday’s trip to Kashima, which in itself isn’t anything to be concerned about, however, all the other regular starters were involved so he may have some sort of issue

MF Yuki Yamamoto – Knee cartilage injury, shown jogging with Fukuda on the club’s official YouTube channel so the problem may not be as bad as first feared

FW Takashi Usami – Ruptured achilles tendon, likely out for the season

Dawhan, Shu Kurata and Kosuke Onose are all just a single yellow card away from the one game suspension threshold of 4

Predicted Lineups and Stats






Cerezo Osaka

As I mentioned above, it’s very much the result of a team effort that Cerezo yet again find themselves inside the top 6 in the J1 standings. Indeed, since returning from a 2 year spell in the second tier in 2017, they’ve only finished outside the top 7 once, last year’s 12th place. Akio Kogiku (47), is approaching a quarter of a century with the Cherry Blossoms in one capacity or another, and in his first senior management role he is doing an excellent job in a quietly understated manner. However, that seems to be the way that suits Cerezo, a team that generally fly slightly under the radar, even in their own city and prefecture. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what kind of football Stoke City are playing now, but for me and probably a lot of my generation they’ll be forever associated with Tony Pulis’ often slandered, let’s call it rudimentary style. Gamba seem to benefit from this kind of thinking, but in the reverse way to Stoke, as many casual Japanese followers of the beautiful game that I encounter remember the days of Akira Nishino and to a lesser extent Kenta Hasegawa when the Nerazzurri won lots of trophies and played an easy-on-the-eye brand. I’m sorry for dropping this in Cerezo fans, but facts are facts, the Sakura have never won J1 or the ACL like their blue and black rivals which definitely hurts them in attracting new fans and, probably, to an extent, top level players too. With that said, anyone of a pink persuasion will gleefully point out that they’ve been by far and away the most consistently high performing of all the Kansai clubs over the past half decade and that period of dominance shows little sign of abating. In Kogiku they have a coach who knows the club inside and out, they produce a number of promising youngsters on an annual basis (Sota Kitano and Kosei Okazawa this year, potentially Shinnosuke Kinoshita and Nelson Ishiwatari in the near future) and are now comfortably settled into their new home stadium. I don’t want to milk the ‘things are looking rosy in Cerezo’s garden’ pun too much, but I feel it’s a fitting way to end this mini-section.

PS: Obviously I hope that by bigging them up in here, Cerezo will do what all good J. League teams do and fall flat on their faces come Saturday night. But, they can feel free to continue their good work from the following matchday as they continue to push for a top 4 spot. 😋

Team News

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

DF Yusuke Maruhashi – Has undergone knee surgery, out for the season

DF Ryosuke Yamanaka – Suspended as a result of the red card he received versus Marinos

MF Hinata Kida – Broken leg in pre-season hindered him, returned to first-team duties, but then had surgery to remove an ingrown toenail (I think that’s the proper translation), expected back in September

MF Hiroshi Kiyotake – Foot injury, expected back next month

FW Sota Kitano – Groin injury, expected back at the end of this month

Predicted Lineups and Stats





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

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Cerezo Osaka vs Gamba Osaka 21 May 2022 Match Preview

Cerezo Osaka vs Gamba Osaka
2022 J1 Season Round 14
Saturday 21 May 2022
Yodoko Sakura Stadium
Kick Off: 14:00 (JST)

It’s Osaka Derby time this Saturday as Gamba make the short trip south to visit prefectural rivals Cerezo, and with the duo currently level on points in the standings, a titanic tussle surely awaits. Kashima, Kawasaki and Marinos appear to be a cut above the rest this season, but the Nerazzurri and the Cherry Blossoms both lie only 3 points behind 4th placed Kashiwa and with a large number of teams seemingly capable of challenging for that potential ACL spot, this clash between two of those contenders takes on extra significance. Gamba helped close the gap on Reysol with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at the Hitachidai last Saturday evening thanks to Dawhan’s late winner. Kashiwa perhaps only had themselves to blame for their demise, missing a number of good chances including Hiromu Mitsumaru’s last gasp header which hit the post, but for the Ao to Kuro, unable to call on at least 12 players due to injury and Covid issues, it was a result to savour. Cerezo, on the other hand, went down 1-0 at Nagoya courtesy of an early Keiya Sento strike that Kim Jin-hyeon, possibly still suffering the after-effects of his recent shoulder injury, may feel he should have done better with. These two have already duked it out twice this season in the Levain Cup and the second meeting produced the fixture’s first ever 0-0. With the dissatisfaction of their supporters still ringing in their ears, the onus is now on both sets of players to put on a more entertaining display of attacking football this time round.

Tale of the Tape



In my last preview I added the caveat that Gamba had played against 10 men for 2/3 of the match with Kobe, and this week I feel I need to point out that the Nerazzurri’s tactics and subsequent stats versus Reysol were heavily influenced by the Covid outbreak within the squad. With that said, the Ao to Kuro’s starting eleven at the Hitachidai still contained the same goalkeeper, defenders and central midfielders that played in the 2-0 home victory over Vissel and also boasted the likes of Hiroki Fujiharu, Genta Miura and Wellington Silva among the subs, so the team selected was clearly still more than capable of doing the business. Perhaps thanks to a backs-to-the-wall mindset, Katanosaka was able to cajole an energetic performance out of his troops, the 118.8 km distance covered was the joint 2nd highest total produced this year and indeed that number was identical in the 1-0 win at Urawa in February, a game which followed a not too dissimilar pattern. The 195 sprints recorded was also the club’s 2nd highest in 2022, perhaps owing much to the vibrance of young guns such as Yamami and Nakamura, plus debutant Minamino. If you glance down quickly to the 2021 vs 2022 stats comparison table below you’ll observe that things are mostly ticking in the right direction for Gamba under Katanosaka. We can see that xG against and goals conceded have improved slightly, though further work is definitely required to shore up the defence while remaining a threat going forward. The club’s xG difference currently sits at -0.32 (last season it was -0.43), projected over the course of a whole season that means the Nerazzurri would be expected to concede 10.88 more times than they scored. The number of shots Ao to Kuro ‘keepers are facing also remains a big concern with 3 instances (including Kashiwa last weekend) of opposition teams having 20 or more attempts on goal and only 2 matches (Iwata and Kobe) when opponents have had less than 10 efforts at Gamba’s net (the Nerazzurri are on a run of 3 clean sheets in-a-row from an xG against of 5.52 so the worry is that’s going to come back to bite sooner or later). Pass completion is the other metric that is down on 2021, though it is steadily improving. Across Gamba’s most recent 5 outings it stands at 350.6, and this includes a fixture played in very trying underfoot conditions vs FC Tokyo, last season it was a very similar 361.1 per 90 minutes. Additionally, I’d argue that pass completion is something of a ‘sweet spot’ statistic in that good teams naturally have higher numbers (with the odd exception), but going too high, ie Kobe or Tokushima at their worst, just means you are passing the ball side-to-side and drawing 0-0 or chasing games from 1-0 down while the likes of Kawasaki, Marinos, Antlers have matches sewn up 15-20 minutes before the end and can therefore afford to cruise and let their stats lag a touch, but I digress.


Is there something in the air in Osaka these days as Cerezo seem to have succumbed to the same home game blues as Gamba? The Sakura have picked up just 5 of their 17 points on their own turf this season (Gamba are doing little better with 8) and despite 60.4% of their points being earned at home last term they finished off the year losing 4 of their final 6 J1 fixtures at the Yodoko Sakura Stadium, is a case of new stadium syndrome to blame? Cerezo finished one position and 4 points better off than the Nerazzurri in 2021 and while they ranked 5th in terms of xG for, xG difference, shots for and shots for on target, their xG against, shots against, pass completion and sprinting stats were mediocre. Of course they made a pretty significant change in the dugout pre-season, replacing the ultra defensive Miguel Ángel Lotina with returning hero Levir Culpi in an effort to produce some more attractive attacking football. In reality what occurred was a loss of the defensive stability that was the foundation of their 4th and 5th place finishes from the previous two years and in it’s stead came more attacking endeavour, but a lack of cutting edge which ultimately led to Culpi’s dismissal days prior to the Osaka Derby last August. Akio Kogiku took over for the remaining 13 matches and oversaw 6 wins and 7 defeats. Perhaps his greatest triumph has been using his in-depth knowledge of the club’s youth structures to significantly reduce the average age of the starting eleven. This is perhaps best illustrated in the 2nd stats table below where you can see a major year-on-year improvement in both distance covered and number of sprints per game. Cerezo’s results have been a bit all over the place this season, though there has been a pleasant neatness to them. After a 2-2 draw at Yokohama F. Marinos in round 1, they are 4W4D4L across their last 12 league games and those can be divided into successive groups of 3 fixtures with each containing 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss, so while we can say they’ve never really been out of form, we can’t say they’ve ever been in great form either. Their xG for and against numbers have worryingly both gone the wrong way this year compared to last season, but fortunately they are conceding less while goals scored has remained constant. Like Gamba they’ll be hoping that discrepancy between xG and real goals doesn’t come back to haunt them down the line.


Head to Head

2021 marked the second consecutive year that the Nagai Stadium leg of the Osaka Derby ended in a 1-1 draw. On that occasion it was a tale of two penalties, Yuta Toyokawa’s miss for Cerezo in the first-half and Patric’s equaliser for Gamba 8 minutes from the end of regulation time. Sandwiched in between was a pretty decent Motohiko Nakajima effort from the edge of the area, but there was to be no further scoring and the visitors would have been the happier of the two to leave with a share of the spoils. That result, however, meant that Gamba had still only accumulated 7 points from their opening 8 league fixtures and, more worryingly, had scored just once from open play during that time. The axe would fall on kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s head less than two weeks after this game following back-to-back home losses to Kawasaki and Hiroshima. Later in the year Cerezo saw off the Nerazzurri in the return match at Panasonic Stadium thanks to Riku Matsuda’s deflected shot 6 minutes into the second-half. It was another scrappy affair that the Cherry Blossoms slightly edged and was the second in a worrying run of four consecutive league defeats for Gamba as they faced severe burnout in the aftermath of their epic mid-summer fixture marathon. Both Osaka clubs have also faced each other 4 times in the Levain Cup over the past 2 seasons with Cerezo running out 4-1 winners on aggregate in last year’s quarter-final before easing past the Nerazzurri 3-2 in Suita in a Group A thriller this February. The return match ended in a much more sedate 0-0 stalemate which saw Gamba officially eliminated from the 2022 edition of the competition.



Gamba Osaka

* What I like about Tomohiro Katanosaka is that he’s not afraid to take decisive action when his battle plan isn’t working. Case in point: Saturday night in Kashiwa, after a bright opening 20 minutes of attacking verve from Gamba which led to chances being created at the expense of the defence being left wide open and exposed, Reysol took almost complete command for the rest of the first-half and it looked like it was just a matter of time before they went ahead. Katanosaka then brought on Genta Miura for Hideki Ishige at the interval, changed the system from 4-4-2 to 3-4-2-1 and after a rocky opening 5 minutes to the second period, the Nerazzurri steadily improved and limited their hosts’ opportunities while finding time to grab a winner of their own. With all that said, at the moment I’d expect the same members that came out for the second-half last week to start versus Cerezo, possibly with the exception of Ishige for Nakamura and, if his condition allows, Onose for Yanagisawa. Those with asymptomatic Covid will likely return via the bench in my opinion.

* Gamba will travel to play Cerezo looking to make it three wins on the spin and have temporarily gone from nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone to now staring optimistically at 4th place which lies just 3 points ahead of them. However, I add this note of caution, pre-season I had Gamba down as somewhere in the mid-table shuffle between 5th and 15th, there are plenty of teams around a similar level, capable of winning some and losing others, this is where the Nerazzurri are at the moment. I’m looking for incremental improvements in the Katanosaka game-plan, keeping players healthy and adding one or two who fit the system better in the summer will be key, but ultimately I’m not expecting too many fireworks in 2022.

* Gamba has always been a club known for harvesting it’s own talent and out of the Covid emergency (Katanosaka’s words, not mine) came the opportunity for two youngsters, midfielder Rikuto Kuwahara and forward Harumi Minamino to join up with the first-team squad. High school third grader Minamino is likely to turn pro next year and he enjoyed an eventful 16 minute cameo which involved, plenty of running, a cheeky back-heel on the edge of the Kashiwa box and concussing a Gamba fan behind the goal with a shot (the supporter in question received a Yuya Fukuda uniform as compensation and an apology from Minamino too…I also saw a fan with a baby in that area as well, not sure what that was all about? Welcome to the J.League, eh!) Kuwahara was an unused sub, but he is worth discussing as he has so far taken the same path from Nagaokakyo SS in Kyoto to the Gamba youth academy that Akihiro Ienaga and Takashi Usami have already trodden. With Jiro Nakamura (who understandably for someone so young had an off night on Saturday) being compared to the aforementioned Ienaga and Usami and drawing admiring glances from Celtic supporters, it’s good to know there’s fresh talent in the pipeline if he does go, albeit someone who plays a bit deeper and won’t be ready to join the first team on a permanent basis until 2024.
**Minamino and Kuwahara both started as Gamba bowed out of the Levain Cup at the group stage with a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Kashima Antlers. Shoma Doi reminded kantoku René Weiler of his existence with a brace and Japan international Ayase Ueda got the other while captain Genta Miura netted the Nerazzurri’s consolation.**

* Ichimori vs Higashiguchi – I’ve said before that Masaaki Higashiguchi will undoubtedly come back and re-take the starting gloves once he returns to full fitness, but watching Kashiwa vs Gamba on Saturday night was the first time that just a sliver of doubt crept into my mind. It was Jun Ichimori’s first-half performance that did it. Not only did he thwart the Reysol attackers time and time again, but he also sprayed a magnificent pass out to the left wing for Keisuke Kurokawa who then fed the onrushing Yamami to set up what would have been a goal of the season contender had it gone in. I challenge you to spot a better pass from a goalkeeper to an outfield player in J1 this year!

* Deadly Dawhan – The Brazilian volante has quickly become a fan favourite since making his debut just under 2 months ago. He seems like a down-to-earth, family guy off the field and on it he reads the game well, has a good range of passing, is extremely fit and has a keen eye for goal. In my decade of following the Nerazzurri, Matheus Jesus, who came and went with the ill-fated Levir Culpi reign of 2018, is the only other Brazilian central midfielder I’ve seen turn out in the blue and black stripes, so I must say I’m thoroughly enjoying Dawhan’s start to life in the J.League.
**Note – On 17 May it was announced that Dawhan’s first Gamba strike, his volley against Kyoto Sanga, had been chosen as J1 Goal of the Month for April, congratulations to him.**

* Personal news – The home leg of the Osaka Derby originally scheduled for Sunday 17th July has been brought forward 24 hours as a result of Japan’s hosting of the EAFF E-1 Football Championship. That makes sense, but unfortunately for me that means missing out on attending due to work. To date I’ve only been to Gamba vs Cerezo cup games live and after the 2020 edition planned for Golden Week was cancelled and then played behind closed doors, I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to take in the rarefied atmosphere. Anyway, personal moan over, now back to the action.

Team News

I’ve gone for a more slimmed down version of this section this week due to the volume of absentees and also time constraints.

**Note – 5 of the 7 reported Covid cases in the squad were asymptomatic, so in theory those players can return in this match.**

GK Masaaki Higashiguchi – Back in full training, not yet ready to play
CB Shota Fukuoka – Had a minor injury, was back training, potential Covid case
RB Ryu Takao – Out of the squad since 17 April, presumed injured
CM – Ju Se-jong – Potential Covid case
CM/S – Shu Kurata – Calf injury, expected back in June
CM Mitsuki Saito – Potential Covid case
CM Yuki Yamamoto – Injured leg on 17 April, return date unknown
WG – Yuya Fukuda – Dislocated shoulder – expected back in June / July
WG – Kosuke Onose – Potential Covid case
CF – Patric – Potential Covid case
CF – Takashi Usami – Achilles tendon rupture – out for the season

Predicted Lineups and Stats





Cerezo Osaka

I mentioned above that Cerezo and Gamba have experienced similar issues playing in front of their own supporters this season, and I think we can compare their work in the transfer market in recent windows as well, particularly when it comes to recruiting players from overseas or other J1 clubs. Hailing from a prefecture with a population of almost 9 million, it’s little surprise that both Cerezo and Gamba produce precocious talents through their youth academies at regular intervals and the Cherry Blossoms don’t only look at youngsters in Osaka and Sakai, their tentacles spread out into presently J.League club-less Wakayama and Nara too. That part of their organisation seems fine, as does their lower league recruitment, for example, they were clearly big fans of my Scouting J2 article from last year, which I’ll move onto later. However, like the Nerazzurri, when they bring in more developed players there tends to be too much of a focus on a signing target’s objective quality and availability rather than how they’ll actually fit in with the team’s structure and style which can lead to a lot of blunders and this has been exacerbated by hiring coaches with wildly differing views on how the game should be played on an almost year-by-year basis recently (Shindo, Tiago, Taggart, Tokura, Koji Suzuki and even Inui are the kinds of players I’m referring to at Cerezo, Leandro Pereira, Wellington Silva, Ju Se-jong and Markel Susaeta all fit the bill at Gamba.) Anyway, this blog may focus on the blue and black half of Osaka, but I don’t want to bash Cerezo too much, so let’s move onto something more positive. The Sakura currently lie 8th in the standings, just 3 points off 4th spot despite dealing with a raft of injuries, the late arrivals of Jonjić and Jean Patric, plus the Inui Incident (‘The Inui Incident’ sounds like a potential movie title) in the opening months of the campaign. With all of that mostly behind them it should be onwards and upwards from here. I think I helped answer a question from Gabriele Anello on a pre-season preview J-Talk Podcast about whether or not Cerezo were viable candidates for 4th, and at the moment, over a third of the way through the year, the answer has to be yes. One of the main reasons for that is the form of some of their winter signings from J2. Seiya Maikuma (Nagasaki) has slowly, but surely forced his way into the line-up as a right-winger, though long-term he’ll probably be Riku Matsuda’s replacement at right-back, while Nerazzurri supporters will require no re-introduction to Satoki Uejo (Okayama) and Hikaru Nakahara (Yamagata) because of the latter’s excellent performance and winning goal and the former’s wonder-strike in the first Levain Cup Osaka Derby back in February. The final player I wanted to highlight is someone who despite turning just 21 this week has already captained the side in Hiroshi Kiyotake’s absence earlier in the year, and that player is Ryuya Nishio. The Cerezo youth graduate has really blossomed (see what I did there?) under Kogiku, initially playing alongside Ayumu Seko and he now has the more experienced Jonjić there for guidance which should help his game come on in leaps and bounds. Having seen former team-mate Seko move to Switzerland and with the likes of Koki Machida, Ko Itakura, Takehiro Tomiyasu and, of course, Maya Yoshida, all Japanese centre-backs who’ve made strides in Europe in recent years, it’d be no surprise if Nishio follows that well beaten path in the not too distant future.

Team New
s

I’ve gone for a more slimmed down version of this section this week due to time constraints.

CM – Riki Harakawa – Subbed off vs Iwata on 6 May, hasn’t played since
WG – Takashi Inui – Available again after a league and club suspension, newspaper articles indicate he’s not fit enough to re-join the squad yet
CF – Bruno Mendes – Subbed off vs Iwata on 6 May, hasn’t played since

Predicted Lineups and Stats




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

Categories
sport

Gamba Osaka vs Cerezo Osaka 28 August 2021 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Cerezo Osaka
2021 J1 Season Round 27
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 28 August 2021
Kick Off: 19:00 (JST)


Quick Note – By the time you read this article, Cerezo boss Levir Culpi may have been relieved of his duties by the club. I decided not to tamper with the original text because, A – it would take forever to alter all the Culpi references, and B – a lot of it is still pretty relevant. So, please sit back, relax and enjoy my ‘ingenious’ foresight that a shocking run of results culminating in a 5-1 home defeat by relegation haunted opposition may put a manager under pressure. Oh, and have any FC Tokyo supporters suggested Kenta Hasegawa as a potential replacement yet?

The Game

The stage is set and the battle lines have been drawn for the second Osaka Derby of 2021. Gamba and Cerezo are set to become familiar foes over the next few days, first locking horns in this league clash before their Levain Cup quarter-final double-header on September 1st (Yodoka Sakura Stadium) and 5th (Panasonic Stadium). Just a quick reminder with regards to this blog, I only write cup previews if Gamba reach the final of the Levain Cup or the semi-finals of the Emperor’s Cup (I’ve got to to take a break sometime, you know!) However, next week I am planning to open the floor to questions and will hopefully have some answers to post around September 3rd, keep an eye out on Twitter for more information.

Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for both Osaka clubs on Wednesday night. Ten-man Gamba were humbled 3-1 at bottom club Yokohama FC, while Cerezo said “hold my pint” and got pummeled 5-1 at home by Shonan Bellmare in one of the most shocking results of the year. The Cherry Blossoms and the Nerazzurri enter this Osaka Derby level on 30 points apiece, though Cerezo have the better goal difference and also, importantly, a game in hand. The gap between both teams and the drop zone currently stands at 7 points, so no imminent danger, but, with the pink half of Osaka winning just one of their last thirteen league outings, and the hiding from Bellmare fresh in everyone’s minds, the pressure really is on Brazilian kantoku Levir Culpi.

There you have it, two teams from the same prefecture, both coming off embarrassing midweek outings, both disappointing down in mid-table after excellent 2020 campaigns, both with under-performing players and under-fire coaches, who will take the bull by the horns and write themselves into Osaka Derby folklore this Saturday night?

Tale of the Tape

Consider that Cerezo lost their last league match 5-1 at home to Shonan, now look at the key stats for that game in the table below and you might wonder why I put so much faith in the statistical analysis of football. Levir Culpi must be tearing out what little hair he has left (I’m balding and Culpi’s older than my parents so I can make that joke, ok!!) at his side’s inability to convert xG dominance into victories. As stated above, the Cherry Blossoms have just a solitary win from their last thirteen fixtures yet they’ve exceeded their opponent’s xG in ten of those contests. At present, they average 1.4 goals conceded per game compared with the Lotina/Jonjić-era elite defence which gave up just 1.09 last year and a league leading 0.74 in 2019. Culpi is a much more attack-oriented coach than Lotina, so how do offensive stats shape up? In 2021, the Cherry Blossoms are scoring at a clip of 1.36 per match, which is almost identical to last season’s 1.35 and a decent improvement on the 1.14 two years ago. Clearly there’s been a steady shift from the ultra-defensive 2019 campaign to what we have now, a team trying to break out of it’s shell, but struggling to calibrate. In recent matchdays it appears Cerezo are able to attack well, but can’t simultaneously bolt the door shut, then when they do keep things tight at the back, they are unable to build up enough of a head of steam to penetrate (thanks S-Pulse) opposition rearguards. Can Culpi solve this conundrum? His job will very much be in jeopardy if he can’t.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Gamba in this section other than while Cerezo vs Shonan was clearly a statistical outlier, the men in blue and black generated exactly 1.0 xG and scored 1 goal against Yokohama FC, so my faith in numbers is partially restored. All joking aside, the Nerazzurri are one of the biggest under-performers compared to xG For, and an extreme over-performer in regards to xG Against. A large part of this could be down to the sheer amount of rotational switches made from game to game as a result of the club’s fixture backlog. Hopefully we’ll start to see more consistent patterns emerge following the international break next month when the league schedule calms down a heck of a lot, which will be manna from heaven for blog writers like me!





Head to Head


The first Osaka Derby of 2021 in May unfortunately had to be held with no supporters in Nagai Stadium due to a state of emergency being in place at the time. Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s penultimate match in charge of the Nerazzurri was decided by two penalties, one missed by Cerezo, and the other scored by Gamba. Yuya Fukuda was rather harshly punished for a first-half handball and this gave Yuta Toyokawa the chance to put his side ahead from the spot. However, the former Kashima and Okayama forward saw his well-struck effort cannon off the post. It looked like that miss wouldn’t prove costly when substitute Motohiko Nakajima put the Cherry Blossoms in front with just 16 minutes remaining. No such luck for Cerezo though, Patric stayed cool and buried his penalty past Kim Jin-hyeon following another contentious handball decision. The hard-fought 1-1 draw earned Miyamoto a brief stay of execution before Kawasaki brought the curtain down on his near three year reign six days later.

Both 2020 editions of the derby were just as keenly contested. The first of the two was played at an empty Panasonic Stadium in early July, immediately following the league’s resumption after the four month Covid-enforced hiatus. Cerezo left-back Yusuke Maruhashi was the star of the show, cutting back for Hiroaki Okuno to slot home the opener, before slamming a goal of the season contender past Masaaki Higashiguchi early in the second half. Ademilson set up a nervy finish, converting a spot kick after Yasuki Kimoto handled in the area, but it ended 2-1 to the Cherry Blossoms, their first away league win at Gamba since 2003. The reverse fixture was another physical 1-1 draw, very similar to this year’s encounter. Yosuke Ideguchi drew first blood for the Nerazzurri, but Yuta Toyokawa levelled shortly after. Neither team were able to add to their tally after the interval, though Hiroshi Kiyotake almost delivered his own magical Osaka Derby moment, sending his bicycle kick just wide in second-half stoppage time.



Gamba Osaka


Let’s Talk About Centre-Backs – A back three has been the order of the day for Gamba on-and-off since early 2019. With Genta Miura, Gen Shoji and Kim Young-gwon essentially un-droppable there is no other way for a Gamba coach to set up the team. Miura can play right-back, but Takao and Yanagisawa are far better options. It’s been mooted in the past that Kim Young-gwon possesses the skills to play as a deep-lying playmaker, yet he’s still untested in that role, and there’s always the fear it could go the same way as the Masato Morishige experiment at FC Tokyo. With all this in mind, I wonder if Gamba’s new kantoku, whoever that may be, could be willing to part with one of the holy trinity in order to focus on building the team around the potentially explosive 2022 offence? From left to right, Wellington Silva, Takashi Usami and Hiroto Yamami playing just behind Felipe Vizeu, with Patric coming of the bench for the final twenty. Anyone else’s mouth watering?

While we’re on the subject of centre-backs, Yota Sato was given a straight red-card for hauling down Maguinho in first-half stoppage time on Wednesday night. Sato is in his first season as a pro and arrived highly rated from Meiji University, however, I have real concerns about how he’s being managed. Of course Gamba have had to rotate, but centre-back is a role where it takes time to build up understanding with the players around you and throwing Sato in cold every 7-8 games isn’t really giving him a fair shake, is it? He hasn’t looked particularly brilliant any time I’ve seen him, but when you consider he made his first two senior starts out of position at right-back, the second of which was against Kaoru Mitoma and Kawasaki, and has since just dotted in and out of the team, you wonder if he’s really being handled the right way?

Finally, Gamba Youth product Shuhei Kawasaki has signed for Portimonense in Portugal today (26 August). I thoroughly enjoyed watching him run amok in J3 in the second half of 2019 and the early part of 2020, but he struggled to make much of an impression on the first-team after that. Did he see the instant impact made by Hiroto Yamami and also the potential arrival next season of fellow academy youngsters Jiro Nakamura and Isa Sakamoto and think his time to shine had come and gone? Or, has he got an agent in his ear telling him scoring a hat-trick against an exhausted Tampines Rovers, who’d just come from a double-header with Jeonbuk no-less, was the best thing since sliced bread? Who knows? I’m sad he’s gone, and I’m also more than a touch concerned over the career path he’s taking.

Team News
There was a again no Patric for the Nerazzurri on Wednesday night, he appears to have a niggling injury and I expect he’ll make the bench, at best, here. Yota Sato is, of course, suspended following his red against Yokohama FC, though it’s doubtful he’d have cracked the matchday squad in any case. Ryu Takao (ankle), Wellington Silva (groin), Yuya Fukuda (hamstring) and Dai Tsukamoto (thigh) are still nowhere to be seen, with no time-frame announced for their returns. Reserve ‘keeper Jun Ichimori and wing-back Haruto Shirai are continuing to work their way through lengthy rehab programs. Once again I’m unsure of the availability of designated special player Hiroto Yamami, this is a home game and his university is located in the eastern part of Hyogo, so it’s quite possible he could earn himself a spot on the pine.

Predicted Lineups and Stats




Cerezo Osaka

Readers of this blog from last season will remember my regular jibes about Levir Culpi’s ill-fated stint as Nerazzurri boss back in 2018. I’m not fan of his personally, but despite being a Gamba supporter, I bear Cerezo no ill-will, so I’ll try and give them a fair shake here. Their main threats come from the wide areas with both, Riku Matsuda and the excellent Tatsuhiro Sakamoto down the right flank bagging four assists apiece already this campaign. On the left-side you have one of my favourite non-Gamba J1 players Yusuke Maruhashi (he was on fire during my first ever live game in Japan), he also has four assists in 2021 and just ahead of him is club captain and legend Hiroshi Kiyotake. Add Naoyuki Fujita’s long throws into the mix and Gamba’s much vaunted back three will have to be on their guard at all times on Saturday. Culpi, someone who was renowned for his youth development work during previous spells at the club, has curiously largely ignored a number of burgeoning young talents in the squad and instead squeezed the ageing warriors of the Lotina era into a series of different starting formations. In the last three outings alone we’ve seen, 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, so take my selection below with a rather large pinch of salt.

Team News

Off-season signing from Sapporo, Ryosuke Shindo’s miserable injury run has continued with Cerezo and he’s been out with a shoulder complaint since April. Additionally, veteran forward Yoshito Okubo who, of course, began the season with five goals in as many games, but hasn’t found the back of the net since, has been absent from the matchday squad for the past four games. Young prodigy Jun Nishikawa, a player one might have expected to thrive under Culpi, has started just once in J1 this campaign and hasn’t been seen for seven matches. I don’t have any details on why Okubo and Nishikawa have been absent, so can only speculate that it’s down to fitness issues.

Predicted Lineups and Stats





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