Sunday, 10 July 2011

Gamba Preview

OK, so my attempts through last week's preview to bring about victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima by channelling the power of Naoki Ishihara very surprisingly turned out to be unsuccessful. The Squirrels rejigged frontline couldn't find a way past the Hiroshima defence even despite the awarding to Omiya of a rare penalty kick - awarded controversially for a foul on Ishihara - which was weakly struck by Rafael and saved in comfortable fashion by Shusaku Nishikawa. Even so indications are that, despite their failure against Sanfrecce, the Rafael/Ishihara partnership will also start in Sunday's meeting with Gamba Osaka.

What is less clear is whether Lee Chun Soo will keep his place ahead of Chikara Fujimoto, the South Korean former international having been switched from striker to a wide midfield role as a result of Ishihara's return to the first team. This may be the most obvious move to make but then Chun Soo has never shown himself to be what you'd call a dependable sort of player. When considering this part of the team two things that do seem clear are that Keigo Higashi looks a definite starter - but also that coach Jun Suzuki's views on the best players to use are shifting. There is even enough time in the season for Jun Kanakubo to emerge as key player.

Omiya are likely to get chances against Gamba, who haven't managed to keep a clean sheet in the league this season, and an in-form and hungry quartet of Ishihara, Rafael, Chun Soo and Higashi could well cause problems for Yosuke Fujigaya and his defence. Ardija's back four has hardly been reliable lately but the fact that Kim Yong Gwon is back from international duty does at least provide more speed and mobility. So the Squirrels are still looking for that elusive first home win of the year. Things will have to go pretty darn well for that to happen against the Blue and Blacks. But hey, at least Ishihara's in the team. Go Naoki!

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