Although Gifu will be confident after two good performances in the last week, they face the toughest challenge of all when they head to NACK5 to face runaway league leaders Omiya Ardija.
FC Gifu current form
- 7/22 v Jubilo Iwata (H): won 2-0
- 7/18 v Zweigen Kanazawa (A): drew 1-1
- 7/12 v Yokohama FC (H): lost 0-1
- 7/8 v Tokyo Verdy (H): lost 0-1
Last time Gifu played Omiya, Ramos went with a 3 centre back system that failed abysmally as the Squirrels raced into a 4-0 half time lead. I don’t see Ramos doing the same this time, especially with Masaki Watanabe and Kazumichi Takagi looking like a decent pairing – although they’ll have their work cut out with a likely Omiya forward pairing of Mrdja & Ienaga. In front of the defence, I expect Keiji Takachi to return to the starting XI, and also think that Koya Kazama – so impressive against Jubilo on Wednesday – to retain his place just behind 12 goal striker Hiroaki Namba.
Omiya Ardija current form:
- 7/22 v Yokohama FC (H): won 3-0
- 7/18 v Avispa Fukuoka (A): won 3-1
- 7/12 v Fagiano Okayama (H): won 3-0
- 7/8 v Consadole Sapporo (A): won 3-2
The free scoring Squirrels are in fine form these days having won 10 of their last 11 games, the only setback coming with a surprise home defeat against Tokyo Verdy. The men in orange share the goals around their team; currently midfielder Shigeru Yokotani and Dragan Mrdja are top scorers with 8, closely followed by Jin Izumisawa with 7. I was highly impressed with Izumisawa when Omiya pillaged Gifu earlier this year. He is direct, quick has a good amount of trickery. Young FC Gifu star Masanori Abe is going to have his hands full at right back, and he’ll probably needs some help dealing with him.
In Nobuhiro Kato, Omiya have the best goalkeeper in the division. He has marshaled a defence that has conceded just 14 goals thus far, and will prove a formidable barrier to FC Gifu hopes today.
What happened last time?
In the reverse fixture, Omiya tore Gifu to shreds in the first half, going in a half time 4-0 up, inspired by the left sided pace & directness of Jin Izumisawa.
In the end, Ardija coasted to a comprehensive 5-0 victory.
Can Gifu get anything?
It will be a tough ask, but these are the points they should work from:
- Against Jubilo, centre back Masaki Watanabe & defensive midfielder Henik in particular didn’t allow Jubilo’s blue-chip players (Jay Bothroyd, Daisuke Matsui etc) any time on the ball. They snapped at their heels, rushed them and got physical with them. It ultimately put Jubilo’s stars off their game and provided an incentive for Gifu to go at them. They have to nullify the physical presence of Mrdja, but a much more difficult task will be tracking & nullifying Akihiro Ienaga & Jin Izumisawa. Gifu MUST try and keep them at arms length – although that is much much easier said than done.
- The forecast is for around 33 degrees at kick-off time in Saitama, and that means Gifu can’t afford to chase the game early on. Omiya have made a habit of punishing tired teams this year, Gifu need to avoid that scenario. An early goal for Omiya would be an ominous sign.
- Gifu would do well to look at Omiya’s right side as their best route of getting through on goal. Keiji Takachi will natrually drift that way, and his almost telepathic understanding with Hiroaki Namba means little time needs to be wasted in putting through balls/balls over the top for NMB24 to chase.
Can Gifu get a positive result? Common sense and the form book says no – but they also said that when Tokyo Verdy went there. Gifu will need a lot of luck, and some supreme defending if they are to do it. Vamos Gifu!!