Saturday, 28 July 2012

Kawasaki Preview

There might not have been any actual matches to enjoy, but that doesn't mean Squirrels fans haven't had an interesting time of it since the 2-2 draw with Vissel Kobe at NACK5 a couple of weeks ago. And both the main events during that period could act as inspiration to Omiya ahead of Saturday's game at Kawasaki Frontale.

Transfer speculation has gone into overload since the departure from Ardija of Rafael and Kim Young Gwon, but Rafa's replacement is now confirmed and available for selection. It's anticipated that Zlatan Ljubijankic, signed from Belgian side Gent, will start on the substitutes' bench against Frontale. While it would be asking a lot of Ljubijankic to make an immediate impact - for one thing, he hadn't completed preseason training in Belgium - Omiya supporters will be forgiven for being desperate to see the Slovenian international in action.

It's been clear throughout the season that we need a new approach to getting goals and Ljubijankic represents Zdenko Verdenik's means of delivering a sharper Ardija attack. The big question will be who Verdenik will in due course select to play alongside the newcomer and the favourite at the moment would seem to be - and this was pretty much unthinkable at the start of the year - teenage striker Shintaro Shimizu.

After picking up an injury in training on Thursday it isn't clear whether Shimizu will be available to play against Kawasaki, but the youngster must be bursting to stake his claim for a permanent slot ahead of Yu Hasegawa, Masahiko Ichikawa and even the disappointing Cho Young Cheol. At Frontale, in the meantime, depending on Shimizu's fitness Hasegawa and Cho look the most likely partnership to start.

As well as the arrival of Ljubijankic, the other source of encouragement for Omiya came from a top quality performance by midfielder Keigo Higashi in Japan's sensational Olympic victory against Spain on Friday. Higashi put aside his poor league form to show discipline and creativity when matched up with a strong Spanish team, bringing one excellent save from David De Gea and setting up chance after chance for his team-mates. More broadly it was a display that underlined the high standard of football on offer in the J-League and Ardija's player was at the very heart of the Japanese team. 

Zdenko Verdenik meanwhile needs to get points on the board for Omiya and Kawasaki's recent bad run of results suggests that, with or without Higashi, Saturday's match is a winnable one. Like Shintaro Shimizu Carlinhos was injured in training in midweek but indications are that he may be fit enough to play. Zlatan Ljubijankic may be the longer-term solution but the immediate question is still, Where will the goals come from? 



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