Saturday, 20 November 2010

Kyoto Preview

Saturday's match at Kyoto Sanga may not be a six-pointer for Omiya Ardija, but it does represent a very significant opportunity to pick up a win that would take the Squirrels a step towards J1 survival for another year. Thoughts of the really big game against Vissel Kobe in midweek will have to be set to one side - Ardija need to concentrate on getting the better of Kyoto (although needless to say it would be absolutely great if Kashima could keep alive their slim hopes of winning the championship by thrashing the living daylights out of Vissel too). And here we present three good reasons why Omiya could and should get the win they need.

First, whisper it, but Ardija are playing okay at the moment. Even the 5-1 drubbing at Gamba Osaka a month ago wasn't as bad as it seemed, but to give Jun Suzuki credit his team showed real strength of character to follow up that scoreline with a gutsy draw against Kawasaki Frontale. The Squirrels then scrapped out a win over Montedio Yamagata before collecting another three points at poor old Shonan. Last Sunday they were somewhat unlucky to lose 2-1 at title-chasing Nagoya Grampus, despite playing more than half the game a man down after the sending off of defensive midfielder Lee Ho. There's reason to be, you know, confident - at least a bit - in how the side are playing. Weird, I know.

The second plus is that, please God, GGOA's preferred Omiya attacking line-up will get the chance to start a match for the first time ever. The suspension of relentlessly ineffective captain Chikara Fujimoto means that the wide midfield players look set to be rookie Jun Kanakubo and South Korean Lee Chun Soo, supporting in-form Rafael and Naoki Ishihara up front. During the last few days Chun Soo has been speaking to the press in Seoul of his wish to get back into the national team and a switch for his club side away from a clearly unsuitable striker role to a much more appropriate slot on the wing can only boost his chances.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Sanga are a poor side - maybe not as bad as the desperate Shonan Bellmare, whom Ardija dismissed with relative comfort ten days ago, but the stats don't lie when they tell a story of an awful season for the boys in purple. Just one win in the league since March and a single clean sheet all year. The second-worst attack and the second-worst defence in J1. A top scorer, Diego, who has found the net only five times. A recent record of one point in the last seven matches. We might not be that good, in other words, but we should beat Kyoto Sanga. Now there's a pay-off line.

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