FC Gifu welcome second bottom Gainare Tottori to the Asanaka Stadium in Ogaki for one of the biggest games in the clubs J.League history.
Both teams come into this game in reasonably high spirits. Gifu because of their important win at Thespa Kusatsu Gunma, while Gainare snared an injury-time equalizer in the howling rain against Ehime FC.
Gifu will be without on-loan Shimizu S-Pulse forward Hiroki Higuchi as he picked up his fourth yellow card of the season last week. It could mean a start for last weeks match-winner Blazhe Ilijovski, or it could mean a return for Yuki Nakamura. I hope Stipe retains his place, as he looks like a player who can create things. At the back, Kitani is having a very positive effect on young Tatsuya Arai, who is improving with each game. So much so that he is keeping Tsukasa Masuyama out of the team.
Desmond made his return from injury off the bench last week, but I would be loathe to change the pairing of Kitani/Arai. If it was up to me, the team this week would be:
Sugiyama Kitani Arai Shuto
Someya Moriyasu Hattori Mio
Gainare left it late to snatch at point at home last week. Dudu’s injury time strike gave them the point that kept them off the bottom of the table on goal difference. They will be without the suspended Eijirou Takeda who was shown red for a studs up lunge on an Ehime player. Top scorer Genki Nagasato didn’t play last week, his place was taken by Masao Tsuji so I’m not sure what the situation is for Sunday. Nagasato is a quality player at this level, so his presence would be a huge boost for the visitors. A tandem of Nagasato & Yuichi Kubo, who have 15 league goals between them this year, would pose a serious threat to Gifu.
What happened last time…..
What didn’t happen last time? Gifu only came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 thanks a stunning performance from Kazuki Someya in which he scored one and set up three. He laid on the cross for Hiroki Higuchi’s header 9 minutes from time which won the game. A truly incredible game and if more of the same is served on Sunday afternoon, no-one will be complaining about value-for-money.
I would say that this is the most important game anywhere in Japan at the weekend, the stakes are just so high for the winning team. Hopefully it will be Gifu.