Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Kobe Preview

It's not that it all comes down to this one game, but there's a sense that Omiya's season has nevertheless been leading inevitably in the direction of Tuesday's match with Vissel Kobe. Win and the Squirrels achieve the apparent limit of the club's ambition: to stay in J1 for another year (TENTH IN '10!! Yes. If only). Any other result and attention will roll over to Saturday and the visit to NACK5 of Albirex Niigata, with a close eye being kept on the scorelines of games involving other relegation contenders such as the potentially crucial encounter between FC Tokyo and Montedio Yamagata. Omiya have done well to pick up nine points from the last four fixtures; they can't afford to drop the baton now.

Because it's clear that J1 games as easy as those against Shonan Bellmare and Kyoto Sanga don't come round very often. A more accurate gauge of Omiya's current level looks likely to be the narrow defeat of Montedio Yamagata two weeks ago. Substitute Naoki Ishihara proved himself to be the difference between the teams that night, as he raced on from the bench to take up position for a corner, barely breaking stride before hurling himself between defender and goalkeeper to get to the ball and steer it over the line. But like Yamagata, Kobe's form is more than respectable and they come to Saitama on a four-game unbeaten run that includes a draw with Kashima Antlers and a 4-2 win over Gamba Osaka.

Better news for Ardija is that Vissel will be without injured striker Yoshito Okubo and suspended defensive lynchpin Kunie Kitamoto, but this is set to be a tough game for Jun Suzuki and his Squirrels team, who will no doubt welcome back bloody Chikara Fujimoto to the starting line-up. Hey! How about a worst-case scenario? Does that sound like fun, hmm? So okay then, let's say that Kobe take advantage of an Omiya defence that's kept one clean sheet in two months, Tokyo catch Nagoya Grampus on a night off after winning the title, Yamagata do what they ought to at home to Kyoto and Vegalta Sendai get the better of a Niigata side that lost 4-0 at the weekend. Thank God it doesn't all come down to this.



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