FC Gifu entertain league leading Shonan Bellmare at Nagaragawa on Saturday lunch time.

Gifu’s main quandary is whether Alex Santos is fit enough to play. He evidently had a setback before last week’s game in Yamagata, although that could have also been precautionary due to the horrid pitch conditions. Shun Nogaito stepped in for Santos and performed very well. He blocked superbly and didn’t really get done for pace by Yuki Nakashima. Otherwise I think it will be the same team that starts this game. Gifu are going to have to be careful down the sides in this game. Stipe & Takachi are naturally attacking players, and I certainly don’t want them to curb their attacking instincts, but sometimes that leaves the full backs exposed. It will be especially pertinent if Shonan’s fluid front three impose themselves on the game early.

Shonan come into this game in excellent form, winning their first three games without conceding a goal. And it isn’t like they have had an easy start, they have beaten Montedio Yamagata, V-Varen Nagasaki and Consadole Sapporo – three teams fancied for a decent season. Wellington has scored twice for Shonan this year, and looks good leading the line. Kosuke Taketomi was a favourite of mine when he played for Roasso Kumamoto 2 years ago, and already looks at home again in J2. Gifu’s defence and holding midfielders are going to have play really well to keep them quiet.

In defence, they made the very shrewd signing of goalkeeper Yota Akimoto from Ehime FC in the winter, and he has picked up from where he left last season. Along with Junki Kanayama (now at Consadole) Akimoto was the stand out ‘keeper in J2 last year, playing with an assurance that belied Ehime’s lowly position. He figures to be difficult to beat once again on Saturday.

Previous meetings in Gifu

  • September 23, 2012: FC Gifu 3-2 Shonan Bellmare
  • June 4, 2011: FC Gifu 0-1 Shonan Bellmare
  • June 14, 2009: FC Gifu 2-2 Shonan Bellmare – interesting fact, this was my first ever FC Gifu game!

Match details

  • FC Gifu v Shonan Bellmare
  • Nagaragawa Memorial Centre, KO: 1pm
  • Weather forecast: Sunny, high of 13°C
  • Broadcast: Live on Gifu Chan (Gifu local TV)
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