Gamba Osaka vs FC Tokyo 21 August 2021 Match Preview

Gamba Osaka vs FC Tokyo
2021 J1 Season Round 25
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 21 August 2021
Kick Off: 19:00 (JST)

Gamba’s Summer Expo is back for the first time since 2019 so you may notice the home side wearing a different shade of blue than usual and the 5,000 fans permitted inside the Panasonic Stadium will each receive a free commemorative t-shirt which has earned some rather mixed reviews so far, please make your own minds up on that. 2014 Gamba treble winning coach Kenta Hasegawa’s FC Tokyo side are the visitors for what should hopefully be an entertaining and keenly contested match.

You may have heard me and other members of the Gamba Twitterati prattling on about a young lad called Hiroto Yamami. Well, he is certainly someone who knows how to make a first impression. His entrance to the J1 arena had me waxing lyrical with comparisons to Kaoru Mitoma and Wayne Rooney spewing out left, right and centre. Introduced at the expense of Shu Kurata 76 minutes into Friday’s match at a wet and windy Nihondaira Stadium in Shizuoka, Yamami wasted no time in acquainting himself with Japan’s number 1 ‘keeper, Shuichi Gonda in the S-Pulse goal. Ignoring the supporting Leandro Pereira and Usami to his left, the Kwansei Gakuin University senior brought out a nice stop from the 22 times capped stopper with a powerful right foot shot from outside the area. However, his pièce de résistance came after 82 minutes when he coolly plucked Yuji Ono’s long ball out of the air with his right foot, turned inside Eiichi Katayama and fired an unstoppable left foot rocket across Gonda, dipping viciously into his top-right corner for the winning goal. Gamba fans had waited patiently all week for news of a transfer window replacement for the Tokushima-bound Kazunari Ichimi, after hearing nothing and the clock getting close to 21:00 on deadline day, Yamami announced his entrance to the top flight for all to see. 1-0 Gamba and a season high position of 12th the reward.

So far, so positive from a Gamba standpoint, but now we need to talk about their dismal home form. 18 of the Nerazzurri’s 29 points accumulated to date have come on the road, a trend which mirrors 2020, only the divide between results in and out of Suita has become more pronounced. Three vital home wins over, Tokushima, Yokohama FC and Oita, have been countered by reverses against Kawasaki, Marinos, Kashima, Kobe, Urawa and Hiroshima. Notice a trend there? That’s right, the strongest team Gamba have beaten at Panasonic Stadium this year is 16th place Tokushima while they’ve taken just a solitary point from six home clashes with sides currently in the top 10. The men in blue and black really do need to turn things up a notch, or ten, in front of their own supporters, hopefully beginning on Saturday.

FC Tokyo arrive in Osaka for their 5th away match on the spin with kantoku Kenta Hasegawa starting to feel the hotseat become a touch warmer following a run of 3 league games without a win. After this encounter, the Gasmen have two ties of their epic summer road trip remaining before returning to Ajinomoto Stadium against Kashiwa Reysol on September 12 (they do have a home Levain Cup quarter final vs Sapporo to play before that). Some, of a blue and black persuasion, with fond memories of Hasegawa’s time in Suita, may feel the pressure is a touch harsh given FC Tokyo can be found 8th in the J1 standings, only 6 points off 3rd place with 14 rounds still to go. This is certainly a better situation than the capital club found itself in during most of the decade prior to Hasegawa’s arrival, so in some ways he could be considered a victim of his own success and rather like his time in Gamba, his motivational tactics and ideas might have a certain shelf-life which may be close to expiring at Ajinomoto Stadium?

Sparks usually fly when these two meet on the field, Gamba know a win here will take them to within 3 points of their visitors and put them right in the mix for a top half finish, while FC Tokyo will be determined to arrest their mini-slump and kick on towards hopefully booking a spot in next season’s edition of the ACL.

Tale of the Tape

I mentioned on the J Talk Podcast prior to Gamba’s return from the ACL that ‘draws are not your friend in this situation’ and those have proven to be sage words. The Nerazzurri have won 5 and lost 4 since returning to Japanese soil, earning 15 points at 1.67 points per game (ppg) which compares with only 0.93 ppg before heading off to Uzbekistan. This contrast can also be seen in average goals per game which stood at 0.47 for, 0.93 against in the early part of the year, but has since shot up to 1.22/1.00 over the past 9 fixtures.

As we know, things have been pretty solid defensively all year, and the shutout win over Shimizu last Friday was the men from Suita’s 10th in just 24 league fixtures in 2021, 2 better than last season and just 1 shy of the figure from 2019. Improvements can also be seen in attack with Gamba scoring 7 times in their last 5 outings from an xG total of 7.63 which is a huge upgrade in efficiency compared with the beginning of the season. At the back, 5 goals have been surrendered off 8.87 xG over the same time period, though it should be noted that 4 of the 5 matches in question took place away from home.

A look at their stats table below shows FC Tokyo to be a very Jekyll and Hyde outfit which must surely drive their supporters to distraction. Their season to date can roughly be split into three thirds, rounds 1-8 which I’ve titled ‘solid start,’ rounds 9-17 ‘very ropey apart from random rout of Kashiwa’ and finally rounds 18-24 ‘O Tridente reunited, but shaky defence threatens to steal their thunder.’

FC Tokyo are not a team big on possession, expect them to use the pace of Adailton, a player who has been a thorn in Gamba’s side in the past, in tandem with compatriot Leandro to wreak havoc on the counter attack as they did last week at the Sapporo Dome, and indeed last year in this very fixture. In 3 carefully selected away games from earlier in this campaign against Urawa (round 1), Kashima (13) and Shimizu (16), the Gasmen produced a combined total of just 0.78xG For, Gamba will certainly be hoping it’s that kind of night on offence for FC Tokyo come Saturday. At the other end, the capital side will aim to have their 2 holding midfielders protect their backline a bit better than they did against Consadole last week, though the vast gulf between Sapporo and Gamba’s attacking philosophies could render any analysis of the catalysts for last week’s defensive slopiness largely redundant.

Head to Head

FC Tokyo ran out 1-0 winners, thanks to Diego Oliveira’s strike in the opening minute, of the clash at Ajinomoto Stadium back in May. The game, Matsunami’s second in temporary charge, was largely uneventful after that, however, the same can’t be said for the two ties played out between these sides in 2020, with neither passing without incident.

First, Gamba welcomed FC Tokyo to Panasonic Stadium and gave up an early lead when good Tokyo pressing forced an error and eventually the ball found it’s way to, that man Diego Oliveira, who coolly lofted into an unguarded net from 25 yards. Takashi Usami hit back with a fierce drive from outside the box that Akihiro Hayashi between the sticks for FC Tokyo may feel he should have done better with. Then the fun really started, as in the fifth minute of additional time at the end of the first half, Hiroki Fujiharu had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, with no VAR in place to reverse the decision. The Gasmen took full advantage of their good fortune and sealed the game with 2 devastating second-half counters, the first culminating in a soft, but ultimately correct handball decision against the sliding Kim Young-gwon, Leandro making no mistake from the spot. The third member of O Tridente then sealed the deal as Gamba were forced to chase the game, lost possession and a flowing move was finished off by Adailton, 3-1 the final score.

Gamba gained a modicum of revenge at a flooded Ajinomoto Stadium in what could better be described as a game of water polo rather than a football match. Ademilson’s penultimate goal for the Nerazzurri, from the penalty spot, following an extremely harsh point-blank handball decision against Hirotaka Mita, was the only mark on the scoresheets as Gamba continued their charge up the standings. The action didn’t end there though as Leandro escaped censure for hitting Yuki Yamamoto in the face in an unsavoury off-the-ball incident around 15 minutes after he appeared to aim an elbow at Kim Young-gwon’s chin before thinking better of it. The Brazilian was handed a 3 match ban following a league investigation in the aftermath and the match officials probably breathed a sigh of relief that he sent his late free kick just wide.

I felt genuinely aggrieved after FC Tokyo’s 3-1 win in Suita last summer, but on further reflection, across the two games, both sets of fans had good reason to question some of the officials’ decision making. I would probably make the case that had each of these matches been officiated correctly, then they would have ended up as draws, leaving Gamba and FC Tokyo with 2 points apiece, as it was they got 3, so we can’t complain too much, can we?

Gamba Osaka

After making ten changes to the team that defeated S-Pulse, Gamba were taken to extra-time in their round 3 Emperor’s Cup tie at home to Matsumoto on Wednesday, ultimately prevailing 2-0 thanks to Ko Yanagisawa’s first goal for the club and Yosuke Ideguchi’s clincher on his return to the starting lineup. It was a good run out for several players short on match fitness, though Matsunami would surely have preferred Usami, Pereira and Onose to play fewer minutes than they ended up doing.

As mentioned above, Yamami-mania has swept through the Gambaverse, as the diminutive youngster, who turned 22 earlier in the week, was the talk of social media and has presented me with an Usami vs Yamami 2022 uniform selection dilemma. The Nerazzurri faithful are currently salivating over the mouth-watering prospect of Usami, Silva and Yamami in the same team, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, how can the dream become reality? I, for one, am looking forward to getting the answer. Yamami sat out the Emperor’s Cup tie versus Matsumoto as he played for Kwansei Gakuin against Gamba in the previous round and the question on every Nerazzurri fans’ lips is, will he get a first start here?

Team News

Yosuke Ideguchi, Yota Sato and Shin Won-ho all retuned to action against Matsumoto, though I wouldn’t expect to see either Sato or Shin in the squad for this game, as they are backups, while Ideguchi played 110 minutes on Wednesday so will likely be a sub, at best. Patric has missed the past 3 fixtures, he’s believed to have a small injury, and similar to Ideguchi, I don’t expect him to start here. The club confirmed what everyone who watched Gamba vs Yokohama F. Marinos could see (no I’m not banging on about the Thiago Martins incident again), Wellington Silva has a right groin injury. No return date was given, and I don’t expect we’ll get one, so it’s a case of wait and see. Ryu Takao will be out for a while yet with his ankle problem, Yuya Fukuda is understood to be in training, but his absence on Wednesday suggests he’s well short of match fitness and Dai Tsukamoto’s thigh injury continues to keep him on the sidelines. Jun Ichimori and Haruto Shirai are long-term casualties.

Predicted Lineup and Stats

FC Tokyo

FC Tokyo ended up 6th in the 2020 standings, comfortably better than fellow ACL sides Yokohama F. Marinos (9) and Vissel Kobe (14). Buoyed by their Levain Cup success and keeping the majority of last season’s squad intact, they would have expected to push on and challenge at the very top this year, as they did in 2019. That hasn’t happened and the reasons why are very much a hot topic these days. On the one hand you have the devastating O Tridente attacking dynamos of Leandro, Adailton and, one of my personal favourite opposition strikers, Diego Oliveira. You also have an excellent youth system delivering talents such as Go Hatano, Kashif Bangunagande, Manato Shinada, Takuya Uchida and Shuto Abe. On the flip side of the coin, the balance of the team seems a little off. In my predicted lineup below, just one player (Junya Suzuki) is aged between 25 and 29, so you are left with a side made up of, up-and-comers and slightly over-the-hill veterans, maybe that partly explains their inconsistency?

My second, perhaps more controversial theory, (please hear me out FC Tokyo fans, I come in peace, honestly), speaking as a Gamba fan, last season FC Tokyo were the least nice opponents we faced. Leandro, rightly or wrongly, steals a lot of the negative headlines, but I felt Tokyo were very physical, there was off the ball stuff going on and the referee was getting plenty of advice from both the players on the field and Kenta and co on the sidelines. Not all of this should be taken as an insult by any means, to get to the top of the pile in football, it may be necessary to become well-versed in some of the darker arts of the game. Gamba, for example, dished out more than their fare share of punishment in the away fixture, Kim Young-gwon leading the charge (I don’t believe for one minute that you play centre-back for your country at 2 World Cups and don’t have more than a few tricks up your sleeve). Back to my original train of thought, in 2020 Leandro was a ring-leader, but so too, in my view, were, Joan Oumari, Arthur Silva and Yojiro Takahagi. What do all 4 have in common other than that? They’ve all either been loaned out or reduced to bit-part player status for most or all of the season. Could removing those prepared to do the dirty work be a factor in creating the soft underbelly ruthlessly exposed by Sapporo last week?

These are just some outsiders opinions on what’s going on at FC Tokyo, I’m certainly not trying to have a dig at a side who, let’s remember, are 6 points better off than the Nerazzurri. You could argue they missed a trick not bringing in a Daiki, Matsuoka or Kaneko in the off-season and you may question the absence of big-name Brazilian acquisition Bruno Uvini, but don’t forget this is a quality outfit, packed full of talent ,who present a very real threat to Gamba on Saturday night.

Team News

Diego Oliveira was a surprising omission from the FC Tokyo team-sheet last week and Kenta Hasegawa would only confirm that he had an injury, but didn’t expand. Right-back Hotaka Nakamura’s knee problem is likely to keep him out until October, Takuya Uchida’s season is done after hurting his shoulder, Kazuya Konno did his knee ligaments and will be back next year and former number 1 Akihiro Hayashi is undergoing a lengthy rehab program after also suffering a serious knee injury. Central midfielder Shuto Abe is on 3 yellow cards so a caution in this match would see him pick up a one game suspension.

Predicted Lineup and Stats

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


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.


Gamba Osaka 1-3 FC Tokyo 29 August 2020 and more

Gamba went down 3-1 at home to FC Tokyo on Saturday, their fourth league defeat of the year at Panasonic Stadium and second in a row. The result of the game, which was not without controversy, sees the Nerrazzuri slip down to 8th in the J1 standings.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto made three changes from the 1-1 draw at Kashima Antlers. Ademilson replaced Patric in a surprising move as FC Tokyo have shown weakness against crossed balls all year. Elsewhere Hiroki Fujiharu re-took his starting spot from Yuya Fukuda down the left and Ryu Takao started at right-wing back presumably in a bid to thwart Tokyo’s lethal Brazilian winger Leandro. Takao’s inclusion brought about a midfield re-shuffle which saw Ideguchi sit at the base with Kosuke Onose on his right and Shinya Yajima to the left.

Questionable officiating would be a theme of this game and it started as early as the fourth minute when Leandro appeared to clearly dribble the ball over the dead ball line before cutting back to team-mate Arthur Silva who blasted wildly over from 20 metres out. Gamba then broke up the other end and nice play from Usami teed up Ademilson who fired wide from the edge of the box. In an end-to-end start it was Tokyo who drew first blood from a goal similar to those conceded in the previous home game with Urawa. Gen Shoji’s ball out of defence was well intercepted by Shuto Abe and the ricochet off his leg played in the speedy Kensuke Nagai. Genta Miura was able to throw out a foot and deflect the ball towards his ‘keeper Higashiguchi. A 50-50 collision ensued and the ball broke to Diego Oliveira who coolly stroked home a left-footed shot from well outside the area.

This goal wreaked havoc with Gamba’s game plan of getting ahead early and sitting back with the aim of grabbing a second on the counter. Indeed it was the visitors who outdid Gamba in this respect, earning fouls, rolling around and generally wasting as much time as possible. Gamba huffed and puffed, but often found themselves running down blind alleys as Tokyo’s defence and midfield proved to be extremely adept at snuffing out pressure, Akihiro Hayashi’s excellent point blank stop from Takao’s shot was the only decent effort of note. At the other end the Gasmen broke and Nagai’s shot appeared to be touched wide by Higashiguchi, but a goal kick was given, much to the striker’s bewilderment.

Gamba got themselves back in the game two minutes from the interval. Patient build-up in midfield culminated in a quick pass from Ideguchi to Ademilson, the Brazilian laid it off to Usami first touch and Gamba’s talisman took a second to get the ball out of his feet before powering in a lovely right-footed shot which Hayashi in the Tokyo goal could only parry into his left hand corner. It should have been 2-1 in the 4th minute (double any other game we’ve played this season) of additional time. Some, of a Gamba persuasion, would argue it would be karma for Yojiro Takahagi’s minutes of rolling on the ground, if his team were to concede so late on in the half. As it turned out the linesman ruled out Fujiharu’s legitimate strike, on what basis I don’t know, as Hotaka Nakamura and at least one other Tokyo defender were playing him onside. It was not to be and despite Gamba protests it was 1-1 at half-time.

More poor officiating followed in the second half as the referee appeared to cancel out one bad decision to award a Tokyo free kick for a ‘foul’ on Kensuke Nagai, with an equally bizarre one to not give the same player the benefit of the doubt minutes later. After that the game settled down a touch with both teams having chances on the break but overall things remained tight.

The match swung decisively on a penalty decision for handball against Kim Young-gwon in the 72nd minute, I’ll cover my views on this type of award in the analysis section below. Again Gamba protests fell on deaf ears and Leandro stepped up, placed his penalty low to the left, Higashiguchi got a glove on it but couldn’t keep it out and the visitors went ahead.

Gamba pressed for an equaliser and Hayashi saved well from sub Kazuma Watanabe’s effort. However, Tokyo looked dangerous on the break and were able to take advantage of the spaces left open by Gamba’s gung-ho approach. Substitute Adailton re-paid coach Kenta Hasegawa not long after coming on as he fired an excellent shot across Higashiguchi following a pass from Leandro on yet another Tokyo counter attack. 3-1 game over.


* Basically all of Gamba’s games this year have followed a similar pattern, Oita are the only team we’ve looked significantly better than, yet we only beat them 2-1. Similarly, Kawasaki are the only team who’ve looked much stronger than us and we only lost 1-0. What the last two home games have shown is that teams are on to our system and are quickly closing down our defenders, forcing mistakes and winning the ball back in dangerous areas. Playing Patric last week at Kashima gave us an out ball to allow us to quickly clear our lines, why did he not start here, and why was Watanabe brought off the bench before him?
* Ryu Takao in theory has the skill set to play right wing-back, but as this was his first start in the position he looked rather shaky. Despite being denied by an excellent Hayashi save and then colliding with the shrewd Takahagi at the end of a surging run into the box, his general distribution was much below that of Onose.
* The penalty against us was the correct decision in my opinion, the ball struck Kim on the arm and it was away from his body. However, how a player is supposed to slide and keep their arms by their side, I don’t know. Also from my recent reading on expected goals, a penalty kick is generally scored 70-75% of the time, I always feel dissatisfied when teams are given spot kicks for innocuous handballs in moves unlikely to result in shots or goals. Nagoya can feel more aggrieved than us with the penalty they conceded. Fortunately, in my eyes anyway, justice was served as Lucas Fernandes of Sapporo failed to convert. I don’t know how to fix this quandry and I am just ranting here out of frustration.
* We now look like also rans in the title race, so why not give some of the youngsters a shot. Tokyo had Shuto Abe in midfield and the two Nakamura’s at full-back on Saturday, while we saw Kashima with Araki and Someno, so for me it’s time to gently introduce Shuhei Kawasaki, Shoji Toyama and Ren Shibamoto who’ve been in great form for the U23s see below, as well as Yuki Yamamoto who has just been warming the bench for the top team.

Gamba MVP

Takashi Usami – His best game this season in my opinion. A brilliant strike to equalise, constantly dropped deep to pick the ball up and should have been rewarded with an assist but Watanabe was unable to guide his header past Hayashi. Really needs more help as he can’t create and score all by himself.

Under-23 round up

Gamba U23 eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Sagamihara S.C. on Sunday night. A shaky start could have seen them fall behind, but they bounced back to take the lead in the 21st minute. Haruto Shirai’s low cross from the right evaded everyone in the middle except Dai Tsukamoto who managed to guide his shot past the unlucky Victor.

Into the second half and Gamba escaped appeals for a handball when the ball bounced awkwardly and struck Keisuke Kurokawa on the arm. The Nerrazzuri received little advantage though, as it fell for Sagamihara and ‘keeper Kei Ishikawa was forced into a good save to tip the ball over.

Two goals on the counter in additional time at the end of the game added gloss to the scoreline. First Tsukamoto played in the tiring Shoji Toyama who powered a shot past Victor before being immediately replaced in the 93rd minute. Two minutes later, sub Ko Ise won the ball in midfield, fed Tsukamoto who in turn found Shuhei Kawasaki, the form man jinked and weaved before firing home his 5th goal in 4 games, surely some top team midfielders must be looking over their shoulders now.


Gamba Osaka vs FC Tokyo Match Preview 29 August 2020

Gamba Osaka vs FC Tokyo
J1 2020 Round 13
Panasonic Stadium Suita
Saturday 29 August 19:00 (JST)

Gamba return home after a 6-day break to square off against FC Tokyo. This week’s match preview has been streamlined and also has several new graphics, please let me know what you think. As for our opponents, check out the excellent blog and the associated Twitter handle @FCTokyoKaiGuys for up to date information, match previews, reviews etc.

The Lowdown

FC Tokyo travel to Osaka hot on the heels of a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Kashima on Wednesday night. The capital club rested a host of first team regulars for the game owing to their marathon schedule due to their participation in the Asian Champions League. Still, the Gasmen sit 4th in J1, 3 places and 2 points ahead of Gamba albeit with 2 more games played. That stat makes this clash pivotal for both as a home win would see the Nerrazzuri go ahead of their opponents with fewer matches under their belt, something that would surely give them a lot of confidence moving forward.

Truthfully, Gamba don’t come into this tie in particularly good form, they’ve only picked up a solitary win in their last four league games and that was a fortunate one at home to Yokohama FC. The performances in the past three contests have been tired and lacking invention, though the desire to get ahead early and rest weary legs by soaking up pressure is clearly the strategy Tsuneyasu Miyamoto wants his troops to employ. Will it bear fruit come the end of the year? That’s anyone’s guess in this unique COVID-19 affected season.

Ex-Gamba kantoku Kenta Hasegawa has his Tokyo side lining up in a 4-3-3 formation these days, a marked break from the rigid 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 we saw during his time in Suita. They’ve been stung by the loss of influential midfielder Kento Hashimoto to FK Rostov in Russia and attacking right-back Sei Muroya to Hannover in Germany’s second division in the summer transfer window, these departures compounded the absence of captain Keigo Higashi because of long term injury. For positives, the addition of Brazilian attacking duo Leandro (Kashima – loan – I still can’t fathom why you’d loan a player of his ability to a rival?) and Adailton (Iwata) in attack, the acquisition of youngsters from local universities, Shuto Abe and Hotaka Nakamura (both Meiji) as well as Kazuya Konno (Hosei) and importantly the promotion of players from their famed youth set up, Taichi Hara (top scorer in J3 last year), Takumi Nakamura and Kashifu Bangundagande have boosted their ranks.

Take all stats at the moment with a pinch of salt due to the disparity of games played between different teams in J1, but at present FC Tokyo possess the fourth most potent attack in the division (behind Kawasaki, Yokohama FM and Kashiwa). At the back things are a touch more vulnerable, first choice stopper Akihiro Hayashi lost his place to youngster Go Hatano for a few rounds and there seems to be an all round lack of depth in the defensive positions. As the FC Tokyo Kai Guys have repeatedly noted poor defending from crossed balls and full-backs playing opponents onside have been major contributing factors to a lot of their goals conceded this year, does this mean we are likely to see Patric in from the start again after a decent showing away to Kashima last weekend?

Head to Head

Gamba haven’t lost at home to FC Tokyo in the league since way back in 2008, a 3-1 defeat at the old Expo Memorial Stadium. Yasuhito Endo and current head-coach Satoshi Yamaguchi started for Gamba that day, while Shu Kurata came on as a second half replacement. Future Nerrazzuri legend Yasuyuki Konno as well as soon-to-be Samurai Blue star Yuto Nagatomo were in the Gasmen’s starting eleven.

Check out the recent head-to-head between the sides in the table below and you’ll see a clear home victory bias. Since Gamba returned to J1 in 2014 our home record vs FC Tokyo stands at P6 W 3 D 3 L 0 F 12 A 7. My personal highlight was Ademilson’s 95th minute winner back in 2018 after Diego Oliveira had equalised late on for the visitors. This was closely followed by Shu Kurata somehow being credited with the second goal in a three nil rout in 2017 when his effort would surely have been ruled as an own goal in any other league.

Team News

Gamba Osaka

On-loan Jubilo Iwata defender Ryo Shinzato is the only absentee for Gamba at the moment, he hasn’t been seen on the field since February. Backup ‘keeper Jun Ichimori has been in fine form with the U23s in J3, but clearly that is not his true level, when will he return to the bench ahead of Kei Ishikawa?
A final piece of news is that U23 midfielder Mizuki Ichimaru has joined FC Ryukyu on loan, it’s unlikely we’ll see him back at Panasonic Stadium with the disbansion of the U23s next year and him being overage in 2021 anyway…good luck in Okinawa, Mizuki, I hope @OkinawaOzzy’s men get the best out of you.

FC Tokyo

As mentioned above, Tokyo captain Keigo Higashi is a long-term casualty with a broken foot, he has yet to feature in J1 this year. Young forward Kyosuke Tagawa dislocated his shoulder against Yokohama F.Marinos last month and should return soon while former Zweigen Kanzawa midfielder Kiwara Miyazaki is another who will be out for a while. 198cm goalie Go Hatano has dropped out of the matchday squad completely since the 3-3 draw at Hiroshima, his performance didn’t seem that bad, so I guess it’s down to injury.

Know Your Opponent – FC Tokyo

KantokuKenta Hasegawa – Appointed 1 February 2018 – P 81 W 39 D 19 L 23 F 107 A 80 Points Per Game 1.7 Failed to Score 24 Clean Sheets 31
Key Stat: Hasegawa guided FC Tokyo to their highest ever J1 finish of 2nd place last year.

GK #33 Akihiro Hayashi – Veteran ‘keeper Hayashi had an interesting start to his pro career with Plymouth Argyle in England and then Charleroi in Belgium. Since returning to his homeland in 2012 he’s been a solid custodian for Shimizu, Tosu and now Tokyo. He briefly ceded number one status to up-and-comer Go Hatano, but is back between the posts for now.

RB #37 Hotaka Nakamura – An off-season recruit from the footballing production line that is Meiji University, Hotaka, one of two full-backs named Nakamura in the Tokyo squad, endured a rough ride in the Gasmen’s 4-0 battering by Kawasaki earlier this year, but has battled back well and appears to be slightly ahead in the battle to take over from the departed Sei Muroya.

RCB #4 Tsuyoshi Watanabe © – Captain of the side in the absence of Keigo Higashi, 23 year-old Saitama native Watanabe is still only in his second season as a pro after graduating from Chuo University. He’s struck up a pretty solid partnership with Morishige and looks like he’ll be a mainstay in the capital club’s defence for the next decade or so. Has already been capped once by his country.

LCB #3 Masato Morishige – Hugely experienced centre-back who has played 41 times for the Samurai Blue and featured in both the 2014 World Cup and 2008 Olympic squads. Originally from Hiroshima, Morishige actually started his pro career with Oita Trinita back in 2006. He has been with FC Tokyo since 2010, showing loyalty by staying with them through their J2 sabbatical in 2011 and holds an impressive goalscoring record for a defender.

LB #6 Ryoya Ogawa – Predominantly a left-back, but like many of his positional rivals in the squad, he has the ability to play on both sides of the back four. Joined from Ryutsu Keizai Kashiwa High School back in 2015, but spent large chunks of his first four years in Tokyo playing with the U23 side in J3. He is now firmly established as a first-choice in the top team, though it’ll be interesting to see how the development of young Kashifu Bangunagande affects that in the future.

DM #8 Yojiro Takahagi – Normally more of an attacking midfielder, however, a new formation, injuries and mid-season sales have seen Takahagi deployed deeper this campaign. According to the FC Tokyo band of supporters on Twitter the results have been mixed, but there is no doubt that the one time Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Western Sydney Wanderers and FC Seoul man is a fine footballer on his day.

RCM #31 Shuto Abe – Probably second only to Kawasaki’s Kaoru Mitoma in the ‘best signing out of university’ rankings for 2020. Ex-Meiji University midfielder Abe has very quickly become a prominent figure in the FC Tokyo side. His defensive play may require some development over the coming years, but so far he’s proven to be an effective supplier of ammunition to his more famed attacking colleagues.

LCM #45 Arthur Silva – A bit of an unusual Brazilian signing this, Silva arrived to little fanfare at the beginning of last season and actually played more times in J3 than J1 in his maiden year in Japan. His screamer away to Kobe towards the end of 2019 served notice of what he could do given the opportunity and he has gleefully taken the chance to play regular first-team football this campaign.

RW #9 Diego Oliveira – The ex-Kashiwa Reysol man will be on the hunt for his 50th J1 goal in this game and given his prowess from the penalty spot and around the box in general who would bet against him getting it? Quite a physical player, he’s best used as a centre-forward, but is also able to play just off the main striker on the right-hand side and this is where we’ll likely see him deployed in this match.

CF #11 Kensuke Nagai – Pacy Japan international whose goalscoring feats don’t really match his overall contribution to the team. He’s an ideal player to have in your ranks for away games when you are set up to counter attack. Had spells with Vissel Kobe and Avispa Fukuoka while still a student at Fukuoka University, but spent the bulk of his pre-Tokyo pro career with Nagoya Grampus, save for a forgettable year with Standard Liege in Belgium. Scored a double against Gamba in the 3-1 win at Ajinomoto Stadium last year.

LW #20 Leandro – One of the best signings of 2020, Brazilian winger Leandro moved to the capital after three, at times injury plagued, years with Kashima. Still officially an Antlers player, he’s been quick to show his former charges what they are missing by racking up 6 goals and 4 assists in his first 11 Tokyo games. After being unable to play against his parent club in midweek, the free-kick maestro will surely be raring to go for this one.

Other Options – Tokyo possess depth at full-back in the shape of teenagers Takumi Nakamura, a right-back, and Kashifu Bangunagande, an academy graduate who played against Gamba in the Levain Cup last year. Both have talent, but are obviously lacking in experience and will be hopeful of gaining some during this hectic campaign. Leabanese centre-back Joan Oumari is an able deputy for either Watanabe or Morishige while in central midfield Hirotaka Mita, often deadly from set-pieces, has flattered to deceive in general play since his return from Kobe, niggling injuries may have played a part in that. Further forward, pacy Brazilian Adailton has troubled Gamba in the past during his time with Iwata, 191cm tall Taichi Hara seems to possess a selfish streak rarely seen in Japanese attackers and wide-man Takuya Uchida has been on the periphery for the bulk of his senior career, but has seen more game time this year.

Predicted Line Ups

Match Prediction

Gamba are ambling along not playing particularly well or poorly whereas Tokyo are in the midst of a fixture inferno and thus their form is a bit all over the shop. I am going to buck my recent positive trend and opt for a 2-1 away win which will subsequently be the wake up call Gamba need to pick things up going forward.