Friday, 24 April 2009

Niigata Preview

After being over-run in the second half by Kawasaki Frontale last week, Jang Wae Ryong's Ardija side will attempt to get their encouraging start to 2009 back on track against J1 highflyers Albirex Niigata on Saturday. As has been discussed on these pages, there is much to be positive about following the arrival of Jang in Saitama, but his team is undoubtedly a work in progress and in a dynamic 45 minutes Frontale exposed Omiya's defensive frailties in no uncertain terms.

One potential change to this area of the team is the introduction for the Niigata game of Korean international Park Won Jae. The former Pohang Steelers player picked up an injury in pre-season that has kept him out of the side, but Park has turned out in both the recent friendly matches against Tsukuba University and JFLers Arte Takasaki. It could be that he will make his J-League debut on Saturday, although whether this will be in place of promising youngster Taishi Tsukamoto on the right or left-sided veteran Yasuhiro Hato is a matter for nervous speculation amongst Squirrels followers.

What is clear is that conceding ten goals in their last five J1 outings is unacceptable for a team purportedly with ambitions to reach the Asian Champions League next season - and this despite the addition to the squad of Mato Neretljak, a tower of strength in the middle of the back four and without question a major improvement on any of the other players to have filled this position for Omiya in recent years. Ardija made a major step up when Tsukamoto came into the side at the end of 2008 and it's to be hoped that Park will provide a similar boost in energy and skill levels.

As for Albirex, almost inevitably their star performer so far this year has been on-loan Squirrel Pedro Junior, whose hat-trick last week against Sanfrecce Hiroshima rocketed him to the top of the J1 scorers' chart. Nevertheless, despite being 3-1 up at half time, the Swans came out of that match only with a 3-3 draw, while there are other sources for Ardija optimism in the shape of Albirex's poor away results in the league and the fact that Omiya triumphed in the Nabisco Cup encounter between the two teams just a month ago. Omiya Allez Allez!



Furtho 25 April 2009 at 04:56  

Yahoo has Tsukamoto dropped, Hato swapping over to the right and Park debuting on the left.

GK Ezumi
DF Hato
DF Tomita
DF Neretljak
DF Park
MF Fujimoto
MF Kanazawa
MF Kobayashi Y
MF Hashimoto
FW Ishihara
FW Denis Marques

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