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Gamba Osaka vs Tokushima Vortis Emperor’s Cup Semi-Final Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs Tokushima Vortis
Emperor’s Cup Semi-Final
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Sunday 27 December 16:00


Last Time Out

Gamba closed out their 2020 J1 campaign with a disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Shimizu S-Pulse. Despite the game being a dead rubber, Nerazzurri kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto fielded a strong looking starting eleven with just 3 changes from the win at Yokohama FC 3 days prior. Kim Young-gwon, the free from suspension Yuya Fukuda and Dai Tsukamoto (1st J1 start) replaced the benched Gen Shoji, Shinya Yajima and Kazuma Watanabe.

The first-half was a dull end-of-season affair and the sides went into the break goalless before two goals in the opening 20 minutes of the second period won the game for the visitors. A first ever J1 strike by 19 year-old Riyo Kawamoto got things rolling after 49 minutes and when Shota Kaneko fired in a second after Yajima’s attempted block fell into his path, it knocked the stuffing out of Gamba. Jiro Nakamura provided some spark when he came on for a late cameo (and J1 debut), but in the end things petered out and the home side never really looked like breaching the leakiest defence in the league. Full time 0-2.

Gamba Osaka vs Tokushima Vortis Match Lowdown

In all honesty, Gamba would probably rather play this tie away or on neutral territory. As J1’s best away team in 2020, they defeated everyone from 8th down in the final standings on their travels, however, they also managed to lose at home to the bottom 3 sides (Shonan, Sendai and Shimizu) by a combined score of 7-0. Indeed, the Nerazzurri have only won by more than a single goal once at Panasonic Stadium this season, 2-0 versus Kashima in early October, and in that match the first goal came via the penalty spot, before Kazuma Watanabe wrapped up the points with a breakaway strike in second half stoppage time. As alluded to in my preview of the S-Pulse game, the next big task facing Gamba kantoku Tsuneyasu Miyamoto is to get the home form sorted, especially against teams who are content to sit deep and offer the men in blue and black plenty of opportunities to play the ball about in front of them. Granted, the return of Usami, Ideguchi, Ono and Onose will help in that respect, as will finding a suitable replacement for Ademilson if the purse strings can be loosened enough. (Leandro Pereira?)

With the J1 season now finished, we can finally compare the performances of teams on an even basis without wide discrepancies in number of fixtures played due to ACL commitments, COVID outbreaks etc. Gamba finished with the joint 5th best defensive record in J1, tied with FC Tokyo, however, for goals scored, they ranked equal ninth alongside Cerezo and Hiroshima, out of teams in the top-half of the standings, only Nagoya (45) found the back of the net less than Gamba’s 46. With this in mind, it’s easy to see where the work needs to be done in the off-season.

Gamba have won the Emperor’s Cup five times in their history including back-to-back triumphs in 2014 and 2015, however, their recent memories of the competition aren’t great as they’ve been knocked out by universities in each of the past 2 editions. First came the shock 2-1 extra-time defeat at the hands of Kwansei Gakuin University at Panasonic Stadium in 2018 and this was followed by a 2-0 reverse in Tokyo against Hosei University in August 2019. It’s interesting to see what some of those students have gone on to achieve in the game since upsetting Gamba. Ryu Takao captained Kwansei Gakuin in 2018 and Yuki Yamamoto pulled the strings in midfield, neither of them will require any introduction to Nerazzurri supporters. Hiroto Yamami, scorer of the winning goal that fateful evening will become the 3rd member of that squad to play for Gamba after he graduates next year, while midfielder Katsuya Nakano has called Kyoto home since 2019. For Hosei, senior midfielders, Kazuya Konno (FC Tokyo), Toshiki Mori (Tochigi), Hiroya Sueki (Toyama) and Ryotaro Onishi (FC Gifu), as well as forward Akira Matsuzawa (Toyama) have already started making their way in the professional game. Next year’s crop of graduates looks even better with goalkeeper Kojiro Nakano (Sapporo), defenders Taiki Miyabe (Matsumoto), Riku Morioka (Iwata), Masahiro Sekiguchi (Kofu) and Yuya Takagi (Yokohama FC) as well as midfielder Motoki Hasegawa (Kofu) all making the leap into the senior ranks.

Tokushima saw off JFL side Honda FC with surprising ease at Kobe’s Noevir Stadium on Wednesday night. A double from Tokuma Suzuki and Ken Iwao’s penalty helped them avoid a potential banana skin and they’ll now head east to Suita full of confidence. Vortis were crowned J2 champions just last week and will play in J1 next year, the first time they have done so since the 2014 season where they only took 14 points, scored 16 goals and racked up a goal difference of -58. After bouncing back from playoff heartbreak at Shonan last December, Tokushima will be looking to make their next visit to the rarified air of J1 more enjoyable than their previous experience. They will have to do so without Spanish kantoku Ricardo Rodriguez, in charge since 2017, but who has this week been confirmed as Urawa’s new boss for 2021, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction he gets from the Gamba support on Sunday. Ex-Panathinaikos coach and compatriot of Rodriguez, Daniel Poyatos is the new man in charge, he will have his hands full trying to keep hold of young #10 Masaki Watai who has been heavily linked with Reds, but the good news is that 187cm forward Yuki Kakita (Vortis’ top scorer this year with 17) looks set to remain on loan from Kashima despite reported interest from Shimizu. (It has since been announced that Watai will remain with the club in 2021).

Two Tokushima players Gamba fans should remember are forward Akihiro Sato and holding midfielder Yudai Konishi. Sato netted 14 times in 54 appearances for the Nerazzurri between 2012 and 2014 and Konishi is a Gamba Youth product who played twice for the U23s in J3 in 2016 before turning pro with Vortis the following year, to date he’s made 106 appearances and scored 8 goals in J2. Konishi’s partnership with the veteran Ken Iwao in central-midfield is a key component of Rodriguez’s strategy and after a bit of experimentation, the Spaniard seems to have settled on a 4-2-3-1 setup. The team plays a nice passing game and were able to break down J2 opponents on a regular basis leading to a number of players bagging a high total of assists. The right-sided Seiya Fujita helped himself to 9, just one shy of league leading Swede Emil Salomonsson of Fukuoka (10), while both Takeru Kishimoto (right flank) and Kazuya Nishiya (left) have 7 assists to their name, Gamba therefore have been given advanced warning of the dangers Tokushima can pose from either wing.

As expected with a side who finished top of the standings, Vortis’ team stats stack up quite nicely. Their 67 goals in 42 league outings was just one shy of top marksmen Mito (68), while only Fukuoka (29) conceded fewer than Tokushima’s 33 (0.79 per game). Just considering away results, Vortis were once again ranked as J2’s best side, ahead of Avispa on goal difference, exactly the same as the overall standings, with both teams taking home an impressive 10 more road points than 3rd placed V-Varen Nagasaki. Under pressure to secure promotion in their final few matches, Tokushima understandably played rather nervously and lost their last two away games of the season 1-0 (at Mito and Fukuoka), however, their previous road match was a see-saw 4-3 victory at Zweigen Kanazawa, so they clearly know how to find the back of the net away from the Pocari Sweat Stadium and this Sunday’s tie promises to be a real good game.

Head to Head

Gamba fans will have fond memories of the last time these two sides met, though the 0-0 played out in Tokushima on 6th December 2014 was very forgettable, the point gained was enough to see Gamba lift the J1 title in their first year back in the top flight following their shock relegation at the end of 2012. Indeed, both Vortis and the Nerazzurri were promoted together in 2013 (Tokushima via the playoffs) with Gamba winning both head-to-head league fixtures. Takashi Usami helped himself to 4 goals in a 5-1 rout in Shikoku in round 38, so I’m sure Vortis supporters will be hoping he’s still injured for this clash.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

As usual there hasn’t been much injury news from the Gamba camp, though we do know for sure that Yuji Ono (knee) and Ademilson (club suspension/police charges) won’t feature. I’d put Yosuke Ideguchi and Kosuke Onose in the highly doubtful category, while it is possible Takashi Usami could play some part.

Tokushima Vortis

Serbian centre-back Dušan Cvetinović, a winter 2019/20 capture from Yokohama F.Marinos, was last seen in the 2-1 win at Omiya on September 23rd while on-loan Nagoya Grampus midfielder Koki Sugimori hasn’t featured since the 2-0 loss at Kyoto on November 21st. Yatsunori Shimaya (7 J2 apps), Yuki Oshitani (5), Daiki Enomoto (3) and Genta Omotehara (0) haven’t gotten much action in 2020, though I believe this is more down to non-selection than any fitness concerns.
After this blog post was written it was announced that Shimaya and defender Takuya Akiyama would be released ahead of the 2021 season.

Predicted Line Ups

Any major changes to the lineup below will only come about if Ideguchi, Onose and Usami are fit enough to play. Other than that, it’s 2 from Miura, Kim and Shoji at the back, and I guess Okuno could start ahead of Yajima in the middle, but we are looking at another really young bench on Sunday.



Vortis’ recent team selections have been pretty consistent and I’m confident that they’ll line up in the 4-2-3-1 shown below. Alternatives are Ishii in place of Fukuoka at centre-back, Fujita for Kishimoto at right-back and possibly Diego in for Tamukai on the left, though he’s likely to make the bench at best. Further forward, I believe Watai has been out of the eleven recently due to a niggling injury, and I struggle to see him getting in ahead of, Wednesday’s 2 goal hero, Suzuki from the start here.



Match Prediction

Gamba will be champing at the bit to get another shot at Kawasaki after the 5-0 mauling last month, so I think they’ll do just enough to edge this one 2-1.

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Oita Trinita match preview

Oita Trinita (8th) vs Gamba Osaka (9th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 31
10 November 2019 at 14:00 JST
Showa Denko Dome Oita


Gamba travel to Kyushu this Sunday for their penultimate away game of the season knowing that a win will take them within just two points of Oita who sit only one place ahead of them in the standings. Both sides have had very contrasting seasons, Gamba kicked off their campaign by taking just 8 points from their first 11 games but have since steadied the ship, losing only 3 times in the following 19 league matches. Oita, on the other hand, came flying out of the blocks and after 12 games were sitting pretty with 24 points, since then life in J1 has proved tougher and they’ve taken just 19 points from the past 18 games with only 4 wins coming alongside 7 draws and 7 defeats. That said, the men from Kyushu would have bitten your hand off at the start of the year to have such a comfortable return to top flight football.

The reverse fixture between the sides took place back in April and saw Gamba have the better of play, but in the end the game finished 1-1 with Yasuhito Endo’s deflected shot in the 71st minute cancelling out Ado Onaiwu’s first half opener in front of just 17,727 fans (Gamba’s lowest attendance of the season). Prior to that the last league meeting between the two came way back in 2009, with Gamba winning both games, 1-0 at home and 3-1 away. However, Gamba have lost on each of their previous 3 league visits to Kyushu, 3-1 to Sagan Tosu in May as well 3-0 defeats to both Tosu and V-Varen Nagasaki in 2018. Their last win in Kyushu came on 26 August 2017 when second-half goals from Shu Kurata, Shun Nagasawa and Hiroki Fujiharu led them to a 3-1 win against Tosu which actually proved to be their final victory of the season as they collapsed in Kenta Hasegawa’s final matches in charge.

Gamba captain and centre-back Genta Miura as well as central midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi both received recalls to the Japan national team for the Kirin International Challenge match against Venezuela at Panasonic Stadium Suita on November 19th, Miura currently has 7 caps while Ideguchi has 2 goals in 12 national team appearances. For Oita, on-loan Urawa forward Ado Onaiwu who has netted 10 times for them in J1 this season will join Miura and Ideguchi in the squad, his first senior call-up. His team-mate, centre-back Tomoki Iwata will be part of the Japan Under-22 squad for the match against Colombia on November 17th where he’ll be joined by Gamba U23 goalkeeper Kosei Tani. In further international news, Gamba’s South Korean centre-back Kim Young-gwon will be looking to add to his 74 caps in matches against Lebanon and Brazil.

Team News:
Gamba made 4 changes to the starting line-up in their last game against Shonan Bellmare. Forwards Takashi Usami and Ademilson returned from injury to take the places of the injured Shu Kurata and experienced striker Kazuma Watanabe. Yasuhito Endo came into the deep-lying playmaker role and formed a midfield triangle with Yosuke Ideguchi and Shinya Yajima while right wing-back Yuya Fukuda missed out altogether (I assume he was injured but I didn’t see any announcements) and Kosuke Onose reverted to his regular role down the right having played as a second striker in the previous match at home to Kawasaki Frontale. The final move saw Shunya Suganuma replace Ryu Takao in the back 3 which seemed to give it a more solid look although Takao definitely does possess more pace than Suganuma. I’d expect Gamba to continue with the same starters against Oita with only potentially Watanabe coming in for Ademilson, who failed to score from 5 shots against Shonan or if Fukuda returns from injury (he was pictured alongside a mask-wearing Shu Kurata training with the top team on Thursday) then he could take the place of Fujiharu in the starting eleven or David Concha on the subs bench.

Oita are pretty set on a 3-4-2-1 formation which has seen them achieve excellent results this season. Shun Takagi, who blundered badly for FC Tokyo’s opener last week is the first choice goalkeeper. The three centre-backs consist of; captain Yoshinori Suzuki who is flanked by Tomoki Iwata, a member of Japan’s squad at this year’s Copa America and Yuto Misao, older brother of Kashima Antlers Kento. Right wing-back Rei Matsumoto has been an ever present for Trinita in J1 this year while on the left is Tatsuya Tanaka who of course joined mid-season from Gamba, only a matter of months after moving to Osaka from Roasso Kumamoto. In the midfield engine-room, another summer signing Yuki Kobayashi (Nagoya Grampus) is likely to be partnered by either Toshio Shimakawa or 22 year-old Yushi Hasegawa. Further forward, Kazuki Kozuka is a key provider of assists and he will probably be joined by the experienced Kazuki Mitsuhira in playing off of the diminutive Yusuke Goto in attack. Goto, who netted the winner away to Urawa a couple of weeks back is currently keeping top-scorer Ado Onaiwu on the bench, although I feel this may be due to Oita having only pride to play for and Onaiwu being set to return to his parent club, Urawa Red Diamonds, in 2020. Trinita don’t score many goals, just 32 in 30 games prior to this one, with Onaiwu and now departed forward Noriaki Fujimoto (Vissel Kobe’s bench) contributing 18 goals between them, however they are very solid at the back, letting in only 29, a rate of fewer than one per game which gives them the joint 5th best defence in J1.

Prediction:
Oita come into this game seemingly in holiday mode and are actually a better team on the road than they are at home with 22 of their 43 league points won away from the Oita Dome against just 21 won at home. They were comfortably defeated by title challengers FC Tokyo last week while Gamba easily saw off struggling Shonan, 3-0 still I’m not sure how much we can read into those results. My heart says Gamba will keep up their decent form and edge a hard fought clash 2-0, but I’m very wary of making positive predictions for this Gamba side away from home so I’ll opt for a 1-1 draw and hope to be proven wrong.

Predicted Gamba Line-up:
GK 1 Masaaki Higashiguchi (33 years old)
CB 13 Shunya Suganuma (29)
CB 5 Genta Miura (C) (24)
CB 19 Kim Young-gwon (29)
RWB 8 Kosuke Onose (26)
LWB 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (30)
DM 7 Yasuhito Endo (39)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23)
CM 21 Shinya Yajima (25)
CF 33 Ademilson (25)
CF 33 Takashi Usami (27)

Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23), 27 Ryu Takao (CB/RB22), 29 Leo Takae (CM/AM/21), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31), 34 Yuya Fukuda (RWB/LWB/20), 18 Patric (CF/31), 39 Kazuma Watanabe (CF/33)

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Gamba Osaka News November 4th 2019

#1 Gamba record 3-0 win away to Shonan Bellmare
I predicted a hard-fought 2-2 draw between these sides, however, it proved to be anything but as Kosuke Onose’s early volley and powerful shots either side of half time by Takashi Usami secured an easy 3-0 victory. The win was Gamba’s first on the road in over 4 months and now sees their overall away record this season improve to 4 wins, 5 draws and 6 defeats, the 12th best record in the league. Two away games remain this year, against Oita this Sunday and Urawa on the final day of the season December 7th.

#2 Usami finds his goalscoring touch once again
Takashi Usami talked in the buildup to the Shonan match about how important finding the back of the net was for someone in his position and he certainly backed up that talk on Sunday. As reported on Japanese twitter this was the first time since the 2-1 win away to Kashima Antlers on 12 September 2015 that Usami has scored twice in once game for Gamba (of course he wasn’t a Gamba player for a large chunk of the time inbetween). He now has 4 goals in 10 J1 games since returning to the club in July, and is only 3 shy of joint-top scorers Ademilson and Shu Kurata who both have 7. With home games against Sendai and Matsumoto still to come he may fancy himself to match or better their season’s total.

#3 Relegation still a mathematical possibility but looking increasingly unlikely
As mentioned in the Shonan match preview, Gamba’s win moves them 7 points clear of Bellmare with just 4 matches left. Gamba are now in 9th spot in the standings, ahead of Vissel Kobe on goal difference. Bottom club Jubilo Iwata defeated local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse at the weekend but can’t finish ahead of Gamba even if they win all their remaining games as they are 13 points behind with just 4 remaining fixtures. Matsumoto Yamaga are 8 points behind Gamba, however should we win the home match against them on November 30th then they wouldn’t be able to overtake us regardless of the results in the other games.

# 4 Onose set for international honours?
The EAFF Cup which will be held in Korea this year between 10-18 December may not be to everyone’s taste (cough cough Marcello Lippi cough cough), but it does provide an excellent chance for JLeague players to gain international experience while foreign based stars such as Minamino, Osako and Nakajima are ineligible. Right-winger Kosuke Onose must be in with a great chance for a first international call-up. Despite his club’s mediocre results this season, he has been a shining light with 6 goals and 4 assists from 26 J1 games….should Gamba’s decent run of form continue until the end of the season, whisper it gently, but could there be international recalls for Ideguchi and Usami?

#5 Shuhei Kawasaki to be promoted to the top team for 2020
As I write this (4 November 19:08 JST) Gamba haven’t yet officially confirmed the club’s worst kept secret that U23 assist king Shuhei Kawasaki will be promoted to the senior squad for 2020. Yahoo News are reporting it as fact and I expect it to be confirmed by the club within hours/days. I was at the U23 side’s 3-2 win over SC Sagamihara today where he netted a goal and an assist (he was interviewed right after the game, but my Japanese isn’t good enough to hear if they congratulated him only on his first senior or also on his contract) and he played mostly up front alongside Haruto Shirai before dropping deeper into more of a second-striker role in the second half. He has previously played mostly on the left-wing and that appears to be his favoured position. Kawasaki has 1 goal and 8 assists from 20 J3 appearances this year.

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Gamba Osaka VS Kawasaki Frontale match preview

Gamba Osaka (12th) vs Kawasaki Frontale (4th)
2019 Meiji Yasuda J1 League Round 29
19 October 2019 at 14:00 JST
Panasonic Stadium Suita


Both sides return to league business this week following League Cup action during the international break. Kawasaki successfully reached the final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Kashima Antlers while Gamba were eliminated on away goals by Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

In the league, Gamba lost their first 4 home games this year, but have gone unbeaten in the next 10 with their last home defeat coming against Urawa on April 14th. They’ve also won 5 of their last 8 league games at home, however the 5-0 rout of Sapporo in round 28 is the only time they’ve won by more than one goal, Cerezo, Shonan, S-Pulse and Tosu have all been seen off by 1-0 scorelines.

Kawasaki, on the other hand, are statistically the best away side in J1 with 26 points from 13 games which includes 8 victories, also a league high. They, like Gamba, won their previous match 5-0, in their case away to Shonan Bellmare, with 4 of the goals coming inside the first 35 minutes of the match. Prior to that they had lost 2 out of 3 league contests with the defeats coming against Gamba’s Kansai rivals, losing 2-1 both at home to Kobe and away to Cerezo.

Gamba won the reverse fixture between these sides in round 4 back in March. Genta Miura’s 91st minute strike was all that separated the two teams, both notorious for starting seasons slowly. Gamba were also victorious in the corresponding game last year, goals from Kazuma Watanabe and Fabio giving them what, at the time, was considered a surprise win, however, it went on to kickstart their season and was ultimately the first of nine consecutive J1 victories under Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.

Team News:
Kim Young-gwon returns to the Gamba squad after missing the league cup semi-final due to an international call-up and will surely take Shunya Suganuma’s place in the back 3. Yahoo Japan have reported that Takashi Usami is likely to miss this game after he went off injured against Consadole in the first half of last Sunday’s clash, he’s said to be targeting the match away to Shonan Bellmare on November 3rd for his return. The same Yahoo article also stated that Ademilson was a doubt for Saturday after injuring a leg muscle in the same game as Usami, though given his performance last Sunday it’s possible he was in line to be dropped to the bench anyway.

It would definitely be a big blow for Gamba if Usami is ruled out as he’s started to come into decent form following his mid-season return from a spell in Germany. Patric and Watanabe could form the strikeforce in the absence of Usami and Ademilson or if they are considered too similar to each other, big name Spaniard Markel Susaeta might come into the starting eleven, playing just off Patric.

Elsewhere, Yuto Suzuki is unable to play against his parent club, he could have potentially made the bench due to the attacking injury problems. Attacking midfielders Leo Takae, Daisuke Takagi and David Concha are likely to compete for the 2 bench slots made available by Ademilson and Usami’s injuries, all 3 of them played in Gamba U23’s draw away to Gainare Tottori in J3 last week.

For Kawasaki, centre-backs Tatsuki Nara (a target for Gamba last winter) and Jesiel are out injured. These losses have seen Shintaro Kurumaya, more normally a full-back partnering Shogo Taniguchi in the heart of the defence, former Cerezo utility player Kazuya Yamamura is another option. The 2017 and 2018 league champions have also struggled to adequately replace Brazilian right-back Elsinho, who surprisingly moved to S-Pulse last winter and have had something of a rotation policy going on in his absence. Hidemasa Morita, who starred in central midfield last season, played there in the previous league match away to Shonan, while Kazuaki Mawatari and Kyohei Noborizato took turns in the league cup matches against Kashima.

Going forward, however, Kawasaki have a plethora of options, including former Gamba favourites, the creative Akihiro Ienaga and Hiroyuki Abe who’s scored 7 goals in just 18 J1 games this year (and is a player I’d happily welcome back to Gamba). Central midfielder Ryota Oshima returned from an injury lay-off as a sub against Kashima and could come into consideration for a starting role in this game. Fellow midfielder Ao Tanaka scored twice for Japan Under-22 in their 3-2 win away to their Brazilian counterparts, however his late arrival back in Japan may preclude him from starting this fixture..

Prediction:
Prior to the previous home game with Consadole Sapporo I felt I’d be happy with 10 points from the remaining 4 home games, with 3 points already in the bag and the final 2 matches being against struggling Sendai and Matsumoto, I’d definitely take a draw in this game. That said Kawasaki may be an ageing side who’s standards have slipped a little this year, but they still possess a wealth of talent, particularly in midfield and attack and come into the game in decent form.

While Gamba are desperate to move away from the fight to avoid the 16th place relegation play-off spot, Kawasaki will be equally motivated to move into the top 3 and seal a place in next season’s Asian Champions League. With my heart ruling my head I’ll go for a 1-1 draw, but maybe a more realistic prediction would be a 2-1 Kawasaki win.

Predicted Gamba Line-up:
GK 1 Masaaki Higashiguchi (33 years old)
CB 27 Ryu Takao (22)
CB 5 Genta Miura (C) (24)
CB 19 Kim Young-gwon (29)
RWB 8 Kosuke Onose (26)
LWB 34 Yuya Fukuda (20)
DM 21 Shinya Yajima (25)
CM 15 Yosuke Ideguchi (23)
CM 10 Shu Kurata (30)
CF 18 Patric (31)
CF 39 Kazuma Watanabe (33)

Subs: 23 Mizuki Hayashi (GK/23), 13 Shunya Suganuma (CB/29), 4 Hiroki Fujiharu (LB/LWB/30), 7 Yasuhito Endo (CM/39), 14 Markel Susaeta (RW/LW/AM/31), 11 David Concha (RW/LW/CF/22), 20 Daisuke Takagi (RW/LW/CF/24)