Gifu will be without the services of young and highly talented defender Masanori Abe due to his red card in Yokohama last week. Candidates to replace him include Henik, who replaced him off the bench last week or one of Sekita, Arai or Nakamura. Tomohiro Tanaka looks like he is getting used to first team football, showing plenty of energy and some bright spots. The status of Hiroaki Namba is still unclear so if he is still unfit, expect Tanaka to keep his spot.
What is going on at Tochigi SC?
Anybody who listened to anything I said about Tochigi SC pre-season will know that I predicted them to struggle big time. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption given the amount of talent that left Utsunomiya this winter:
- Cristiano – to Ventforet Kofu
- Sabia – to Matsumoto Yamaga
- Paulinho – to Kawasaki Frontale
- Alex Santos – to….hmmmm…oh, FC Gifu!
- Takefumi Toma – to Montedio Yamagata
But what they undoubtedly lost in talent they have seemingly made it up in players focussed on the team ethic. The most obvious place to start is on-loan Shimizu S-Pulse striker Yuji Senuma. The youngster has been in sparkling form so far this year, banging in 5 goals in his first 7 games. Other contributors have been Tetsuya Okubo, Brazilian defender Dudu and right sided defender Tatsunori Yamagata.
Tochigi currently sit in 6th place in the table with a record of 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats. They’ve scored 8 goals and conceded just 5.
Key battle: Kosuke Kitani v Yuji Senuma – Kitani has been excellent this year, and his ability to marshall the defence and shackle Senuma will go a long way to deciding this game.
Head to head at Nagaragawa
- 2009 – FC Gifu 1-1 Tochigi SC
- 2010 – FC Gifu 4-2 Tochigi SC
- 2011 – FC Gifu 0-1 Tochigi SC
- 2012 – FC Gifu 1-0 Tochigi SC
- 2013 – FC Gifu 0-1 Tochigi SC
Last time out….
A Cristiano penalty (and hotly disputed one at that) gave the visitors a vital three points that kept them in play-off contention. It was a fairly bad tempered game with both sides putting in some hefty challenges while a Tochigi coach was sent to the stands as well. Expect a lot more than the 3,820 that turned up on a gorgeous autumn day last year to attend this year.