Friday, 10 June 2011

Urawa Preview

Saturday sees the first Saitama derby of the 2011 season, a home fixture for Omiya with the visit of Urawa Reds to, of course, Saitama Stad... no, hold on a second, actually it's going to be at NACK5. Yep, that's right the Squirrels are turning down the opportunity to get the entrance money of 15,000 Reds fans by staging the game at Ardija's S-sized home stadium rather than the local enormodome. The reason for this relates back to last season's scandal in which Omiya officials were found to have been inflating attendance figures in order to meet J-League targets, a state of affairs that came to light following the Omiya - Urawa match at Saitama Stadium in October. For 2011, Ardija under new club president Shigeru Suzuki have elected to take the financial hit as a means of demonstrating their determination to set things straight.

That might cover the choice of venue, but what about the match itself? Like most derbies, games between Ardija and Reds are tricky to predict, with neither current form or league positions having much influence on the outcome. Urawa under new coach Zeljko Petrovic endured a woeful start to the season but have lately been showing signs of improvement and are now unbeaten for a month; Omiya meanwhile are scraping good results away from home but have only a single point to show for three J1 matches at NACK5. Even so, the Squirrels stand five places and six points ahead of their neighbours in the J1 table and somewhat surprisingly are holding on to a top-half position.

I've already given ample coverage to the last two Omiya matches in the previous post and it's to be assumed that for tomorrow's game Jun Suzuki will drop Naoki Ishihara and revert to his preferred selection of Lee Chun Soo, after the Korean was suspended for the win over Cerezo Osaka. There's not much that can be said about that that hasn't already been said, but more positively Rafael - a thorn in the side of the Reds on so many occasions in the past - will start in a more confident frame of mind after scoring against both Cerezo and Shimizu S-Pulse. What's for sure is that Omiya need a home win sooner rather than later and, as the team goes in to a busy part of the season schedule, to be flying high nine points ahead of Urawa would be a happy situation indeed for the Squirrels fans.



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