Saturday, 28 August 2010

Cerezo Preview

So Omiya head down on Saturday to Kansai and Cerezo Osaka, one of the surprise teams of the J-League season in that, while it was widely anticipated that they would cope well enough in their first season back in J1, few fans or commentators would have predicted that the Cherries would rise to second in the table. What makes this achievement all the more impressive is that not only have Cerezo retained their attacking approach, but they have tightened up the back line to such an extent that theirs the best defensive record in the division - and moreover their form has actually improved since the departure of star player Shinji Kagawa.

Going into the match tomorrow, Levir Culpi's side could hardly be playing better. Unbeaten at home in the league for four months, Cerezo have won four of their last five games, culminating in last weekend's battling 1-0 victory at Kashima Antlers. So all in all it looks pretty bleak for Ardija, right? Well, yes and no. For one thing, probably the Squirrels' most important player, forward Rafael, looks likely to come back into the team following a couple of weeks out injured. Second, surely the only way is up as regards the integration into the team of new signings Lee Chun Soo and Lee Ho.

Chun Soo has produced the odd glimpse of quality, but is yet to find his role in the side - it would be good to see him use his speed as a wide player in the service of Naoki Ishihara as the team's main striker. Fellow South Korean Ho had an awful debut in the defeat to Vegalta Sendai, but must improve the more he trains and plays with his new team-mates. And the third point in Omiya's favour for Saturday is that their record against Cerezo is outstanding: remember the last league meeting between the two, when Taishi Tsukamoto was present and, just for a short while, Ardija looked like the best team in Japan.



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