Saturday, 17 October 2009

Kawasaki Preview

It's back to J-League action on Saturday for Omiya Ardija and another potentially significant clash with Kawasaki Frontale. The Squirrels gained promotion to J1 alongside the Kanagawa Blues back in 2004 and as such it is natural enough to draw comparisons between the two clubs and how they have coped with life in the top flight during the intervening period. With top stars such as Kengo Nakamura, Juninho and Chong Tese, Kawasaki have gradually established themselves as one of Japan's top clubs, while Ardija in contrast have failed to progress above halfway in the standings. Nevertheless, last season saw two classic Omiya - Kawasaki matches from which the Squirrels miraculously took six critical points.

Loaned-out skipper Yoshiyuki Kobayashi and departed Slovenian international Klemen Lavric were the Ardija heroes on those occasions, each of them netting goals that will surely rank amongst the best ever scored by Omiya players. In April this year, however, despite an opening effort from Naoki Ishihara, Frontale swept aside the men in orange with a blistering second half performance that served to emphasise the gulf in quality that exists between the old J2 rivals. Now, the Squirrels find themselves in what is a familiar position just outside the relegation zone whereas Kawasaki are among the pack of teams who have caught up with previous title favourites Kashima Antlers.

After consecutive losses to Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka, Frontale have bounced back by beating Yokohama F Marinos and then scrambling to a rain-interrupted win over Kashima. If Omiya have cause for optimism ahead of kick-off, though, it is that the opposition's away form is a lot less impressive than the results achieved at Todoroki. The 2009 season and Jang Wae Ryong's period in charge of Ardija seem to be rather petering out in a cloud of despondency, but the Squirrels are not yet safe - and with suggestions that young Emperor's Cup goal hero Masahiko Ichikawa will start a league game for the first time since April, there is still motivation aplenty for Omiya to pull off a win.



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