Wins for three of the bottom five last week leave the bottom two precariously placed. However, given the nature of J2 this year, I’m not going to declare Thespa & Kataller safe yet. Wins for those two this week will see them safe though.
Montedio Yamagata v FC Gifu
Covered elsewhere on the blog, the bullet points are that Montedio will probably be without strikers Hayashi & Goshi Okubo, Gifu could replace the suspended Tatsuya Arai with Hiroshi Sekita.
Fagiano Okayama v Gainare Tottori
After letting slip a lead last week against leaders Vissel Kobe, Tottori know that chances are running out thick and fast. That said, this does represent a chance for them to claim a vital win. Fagiano have basically run out of steam this year and it doesn’t look like they will make the play-offs. Gainare will be mindful that Gifu have won at Kanko Stadium this year, so there is no reason for Gainare to think that a win here is out of reach. A record of 17 games without a win might tell you otherwise, but Gainare have to believe. The visitors will have to do without the suspended Yasuhiro Okumura while Fagiano have almost a full clean bill of health.
Giravanz Kitakyushu v Thespa Kusatsu Gunma
A month/six weeks ago this fixture looked like being a pivotal one for both sides. However, Giravanz are safe after a good run, and Thespa are on the verge of safety. Indeed, they could have guaranteed their safety two weeks ago had they not let slip a two goal lead against Kyoto Sanga. Still, they showed real character to bounce back from that defeat to beat Fagiano Okayama 2-1 last week, even if the end was incredibly tense. Thespa have no suspensions to worry about, although they will still be without midfielder Hwang Song Su through injury. For the home team, Yohei Naito is still out while Yuki Fuji serves the remainder of his suspension. Interestingly, in the last four meetings between these sides, the home side hasn’t won.
Tokyo Verdy v Kataller Toyama
Kataller have hauled themselves nine points clear of bottom place, and six points in front of Gifu in 21st; they are so close to safety they can almost touch it. Much of the credit can go to forward Takuya Koteguchi who has scored five goals in his last five games, including a stunning hat-trick in the 4-1 win in Fukuoka. This week they face a Tokyo Verdy side in the last chance saloon with regards to the play-offs. Defeat in this game could well cost Yasutoshi Miura his job, so he will probably stick with the team that beat Kitakyushu last week, meaning he will once again go with Takahara & Satoshi Tokiwa up front. Kataller will rely on Koteguchi to give them their attacking threat, while also hoping that they can get some help from Kimoto and Kuniyoshi on the flanks. They do have some depth in the attacking area with Yudai Nishikawa & Seo Yong Duk waiting in the wings to come in and contribute.