As if facing last year’s play-off contenders Yokohama FC first up wasn’t difficult enough for Gifu, things will likely get no easier as they head to the newly rebranded NOEVIR Stadium to face Vissel Kobe.
Gifu captain Toshihiro Hattori will still be missing due to a knee strain picked up in the final pre-season friendly against Kyoto Sanga, but otherwise (with the obvious exception of Jinushizono) it looks to be a clean bill of health for everyone else. As for how Gifu will line up, I expect a line up that will focus on getting men behind the ball, and not much else. Last week Yamazaki & Inoue started, but I can’t see that happening in this game, possibly Shun Nogaito will come in, maybe even Shuto Tanaka, to try and shore up the backline. Once again, it looks like Atsushi Mio will be called upon to give the side attacking impetus. Koji Gyotoku hinted last week that Gifu needed to hold the ball up a bit better and stressed the need to be a bit more physical. I think that means he is looking at Fabio & Lemos, the two new Brazilians, to come in at some point. As for Sunday’s game, I think Gifu will go into the game hoping for a 0-0 draw, such is the lot of a team destined to be near the bottom of the table.
Vissel won their opening J2 game 1-0 at Tokushima Vortis via a second half goal from Keijiro Ogawa. Kobe weren’t shy in approaching this game, going with an attack minded team that featured Ogawa as an attacking midfielder and Ken Tokura & Koki Arita up front. Arita scored plenty of goals for Ehime FC at this level last year and Tokura, despite having a lean time of it last year, scored over 20 goals last time he played a full season in J2 – there is no doubting this team has goals in them. Kaito Yamamoto kept a clean sheet on his competitive debut for Vissel in another good sign for Vissel. One player who won’t be involved on Sunday is defender Kunie Kitamoto, who is out for a large chunk of time after a small tumor was found on his ribcage.
All in all it was a business-like performance last Sunday by the men from the port city, but it also laid down their marker. If they want to finish in the top 2, they will have go to these tricky places and come away with all 3 points. Last Sunday they passed their first test, now comes their second test: can they deal with the expectation that comes when they face teams that everyone thinks they should brush aside with ease? The answer will come on Sunday….