So……we are five games into the season but is it too soon to term a game a “relegation battle”, or, as we’re in the Twitter age, can we hashtag (is that a verb?) it as a #relegationdogfight?

Whatever we decide to call it, it is a big game for both sides. For Gifu it is a chance to get their first goals and and win of the season against a team in transition and lacking in confidence. For Verdy, they must be looking at this game as the game to kick-start their season. If they lose at home against a team that has failed to score it will be a signal that they are facing a rough season.

For Gifu, the problems are well documented. Goals. Or lack thereof. This is not going to be helped by the suspension of Brazilian striker Fabio who was sent off last week against Tokushima Vortis. Add that to the fact that Taira Inoue is still likely out injured and it doesn’t look good for Gifu’s striking options. Better news for Gifu is that Ri-Han Jae will be available after his suspension. There are slim pickings with regards to attacking options for Gifu, although they could go with Atsushi Mio up top with Masato Yamazaki in support. If they want to go with an out-and-out striker they will choose between Kohei Nakashima, Hiroyuki Sugimoto or Lemos – but the latter two have yet to make an appearance for Gifu this year. Club captain Toshihiro Hattori was on the bench last time out, so he must be nearing full fitness after his knee injury so he could come in.

For Verdy, who are in a similar situation to Gifu ie: winless, this is a crucial game. New coach Yasutoshi Miura is striving to replicate his relatively successful time at Giravanz Kitakyushu, but he will soon find himself on the hot-seat (if he isn’t already) unless results improve. Miura’s arrival was followed by a huge influx of new players, quite a lot of them following him from north Kyushu like Kodai Yasuda, Kim Jong-Pil & Satoshi Tokiwa. Veteran striker Naohiro Takahara was brought in after his release from Shimizu S-Pulse, midfielder Jun Suzuki arrived from Avispa Fukuoka and defender Naoya Ishigami came in from last year’s J2 play-off winners Oita Trinita.

Verdy made a very inauspicious start to life under their new coach after some unsavoury incidents in a pre-season game against JFL side Kamatamare Sanuki. Korean defender Bae Dae Won went in a bit too hard for a pre-season game and ended up breaking Kamatamare midfielder Kohei Fujita’s ankle. Before long things got a bit tasty and Miura ended up pushing the referee in the chest. As a result of this these incidents Miura was given a club imposed 2 game touchline ban while Bae was given a four game ban. Verdy then went on to lose their opening game at home to Avispa Fukuoka and have since drawn all four games, impressing very few people in the process. They looked to have secured their first win last week when they were 1-0 up at home to Roasso Kumamoto, but the Kyushu side equalized in the last minute to completely deflate Verdy & their supporters.

Hopefully Gifu can catch Verdy while they are down. Desmond & Sekita need to play well against Takahara, and Mio, whether he plays up front or in midfield, needs to be Gifu’s main man. For some reason I think that Gifu will get a positive result from this game. Can’t really pinpoint my optimism, but the pressure will be huge on Verdy and as long as Gifu don’t concede early I think they will stand a good chance of getting something from the game.

Game information: Tokyo Verdy v FC Gifu, Ajinomoto Stadium, KO 4pm

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