Saturday, 6 November 2010

Yamagata Preview

Seven games to go. Six games in three weeks. Plus an Emperor's Cup tie. Two points and one place above Vissel Kobe and the relegation places. Whatever the numbers you choose to count, two - count 'em, two - facts are clear. First, Omiya are going to be really busy and really under pressure during the month of November. Second, they are really in danger of dropping to J2. Because last Saturday was a flat-out disaster for the Squirrels, having their own match at Shonan Bellmare postponed while relegation rivals Kobe and FC Tokyo both managed excellent away wins against teams much higher up the standings. Just to increase the pressure a bit more.

But even so, leaving aside the minor detail of the J-League's ongoing investigation into attendance data tampering which may see Ardija demoted any-the-fucking-way, thank you outgoing club president Seigo Watanabe, Omiya do still have their fate in their own hands. Beat Montedio Yamagata tomorrow and things start to look a little healthier - the only problem with that idea being that the last time that the Squirrels beat the Mountain Gods in the league was on 16 October 2004, when Agent Orange's dream forward line of Hiroshi Morita and Tuto scored in a key victory that set Omiya up for promotion from J2.

Yamagata finally made their way into the top flight for last season and the best result for Ardija in the meetings between the two teams since then has been a spine-chilling 0-0 draw at the tail end of 2009. Montedio's form is inconsistent, but just last weekend they put on a typically gutsy performance to beat Urawa Reds in Saitama. Ardija coach Jun Suzuki will therefore have to have prepared his team to win a physical battle, which could be why there are suggestions that tough-tackling, please-don't-get-yourself-sent-off South Korean Lee Ho will return to the centre of the Omiya midfield. Whoever plays, from now on, it's heads down to work for seven games.

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