Saturday, 20 August 2011

Yamagata Preview

Big game, Saturday. Biiiiiig game. After a disheartening defeat at Shimizu S-Pulse last weekend, Omiya go into the home match with Montedio Yamagata knowing that a further loss will drag the Squirrels right into a relegation fight. If results go against Jun Suzuki's team, by the end of the night they could be only three points ahead of sixteenth-placed Ventforet Kofu. Ardija are of course still looking for their first home win of 2011 - indeed, their last home win was on 6th November last year, a 2-1 triumph over... yes, Montedio. That's a run that surely not even the gloomiest Omiya supporter could have envisaged.

Meanwhile Yamagata have experienced a reasonably predictable J1 season. Having lost 2010's top scorer Yuzo Tashiro back to Kashima Antlers the Mountain Gods have struggled even more than Omiya to score goals: seventeen times they've hit the net in 21 games, a figure that tells its own story of struggle. Even so Montedio have picked up a couple of vital wins over the last month, beating both their main relegation rivals Kofu and Avispa Fukuoka to provide a huge boost to the team's chances of avoiding the drop. Ardija of course lost against Avispa in feeble circumstances at the start of July and since then have scraped a single victory at Vegalta Sendai.

And yet there's cause for optimism among Omiya fans. El Golazo magazine in its match preview suggests that the previously-successful central defensive pairing of Shusuke Tsubouchi and Yuki Fukaya will be in the team again, with U22 international midfielder Keigo Higashi also returning to take a pivotal role in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Previously it looked as if Higashi was falling out of favour with coach Suzuki but, if true, his comeback would be a welcome turn of events - as would El Golazo's indication that right back Arata Sugiyama has been dropped from the starting XI.

There are all sorts of questions over what Omiya's best team might be - in fact there will be a GGOA feature article coming soon on exactly that topic - but surely there is extensive evidence that the likes of Sugiyama and Yosuke Kataoka are not players who can help the Squirrels to improve. So let's hope for a solid defensive performance against Yamagata, a hardworking midfield and some vision, movement and scoring chances for Higashi, current top scorer Rafael and dynamic newcomer Rodrigo Pimpao. Now, more than ever, is the time for a home win.



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