Saturday, 4 September 2010

Emperor's Cup Preview / GGOA Survey Results

Ardija take a break from their topsy-turvy J1 season this weekend with a Second Round Emperor's Cup tie on Sunday against Kamatamare Sanuki of the Shikoku League. While finishing as high as possible up the J1 standings will naturally be the priority for Jun Suzuki, it's also true to say that the way that the Emperor's Cup draw shapes up means that Omiya potentially have a pretty straightforward run to a meeting with most probably either Kashima Antlers or Nagoya Grampus in the Semi-Finals. And right at the moment, any wins and any goals scored can only be a boost to the fragile confidence of Suzuki's side.

On Sunday, Ardija will be taking on a team that play in the fourth tier of Japan's football pyramid, their nearest challengers for this year's Shikoku title being sides affiliated with the local J-League teams, Ehime FC Shimanami and Tokushima Vortis Second. The Sanuki squad is made up of a mixture of former university students - top scorer Satoshi Wakisaka was previously with the National Institute of Fitness & Sports - signings from other Regional League teams and the occasional JFL and J-League cast-off, such as Koji Onishi, released over the winter after three years on the fringes of the Vortis first team.

Such an opponent has to represent an opportunity for Suzuki, whose recent signings Lee Ho and Lee Chun Soo look as though what they need above all else is playing time. Ho's arrival in particular coincided with the sudden conclusion of a five-game unbeaten run, while Chun Soo shows no sign of being the answer to the Squirrels' goalscoring problems - not a surprise, given that his own track record in this area is not especially impressive. The enforced absence of the suspended Chikara Fujimoto means that Ardija must explore other attacking options against the non-leaguers, which would hardly be a bad idea anyway.

So what do Squirrels fans think about how the mess of 2010 is likely to end up? Well, the readers' survey just run here on GGOA - full results below - suggests that while over half Ardija supporters expect Omiya to finish the season in their traditional position just outside the relegation zone, almost one in three think that this is the year when the club will indeed drop back to J2. Kyoto Sanga and Shonan Bellmare may already look doomed, but the battle to avoid the other space in the bottom three shows every sign of being a close one, with the Squirrels, Vissel Kobe, Vegalta Sendai and FC Tokyo at the moment all on the same number of points.

Q. Where will Ardija finish in J1 2010?

1. 13th-15th (58%)
2. 16th-18th (29%)
3. 10th-12th (11%)



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