Today, the full fixture list for FC Gifu’s 2018 season was released (Just the games, not all the KO times because, you know, the J.League). I’ve literally just run my eyes over them, but here’s what appeals to me on a month by month basis.
- Feb. 25th – Avispa Fukuoka (A)
Looking forward to: Avispa Fukuoka. By default, because it is the only game of the month, but this is a big assignment to start off with. Fukuoka are a trendy pick to finish in the top two (I’m not buying it personally, but there’s no doubt they’ll be up around the play-offs) and they’ll be looking to get off to statement style start. Missing out on promotion by the slimmest of margins last year, Avispa have lost the important trio enigmatic forward Wellington to Kobe, Yuta Mikado to Omiya, and defender Kamekawa to Kashiwa Reysol. In their place comes the impressive Naoki Wako (Reysol), Yu Tamura (back from Urawa) and Tulio de Melo (Chapecoense). It is going to be a very difficult opening day for Gifu.
- March 3rd – Yokohama FC (H)
- March 11th – JEF United (A)
- March 17th – Kyoto Sanga (A)
- March 21st – Tochigi SC (H)
- March 25th – Ehime FC (A)
Looking forward to: JEF United. Last year, Gifu produced one of their best performances of the season when they went to JEF United’s Fukuda Denshi arena and won 3-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Koya Kazama. They’ll be hard pressed to do it again, as JEF are a lot of people’s pick to go one better than last year and achieve promotion. Yusuke Chajima, on loan from Sanfrecce Hiroshima is a very astute signing, and if Larrivey & Koki Kiyotake can replicate their excellent form of last year, this will be a challenging trip.
- April 1st – Ventforet Kofu (H)
- April 7th – Tokyo Verdy (A)
- April 15th – Tokushima Vortis (H)
- April 21st – Fagiano Okayama (A)
- April 28th – Zweigen Kanazawa (H)
Looking forward to: Tokushima Vortis. Gifu supporters are eagerly awaiting the return of last year’s MVP Sisinio and young winger Yuki Omoto, who both left the club in the winter. They’ll get a good reception, and the midfield battle between Sisinio and Yuto Ono will be one of my matchups of the season.
Sisi will be making a quick return to Nagaragawa…..
- May 3rd – Roasso Kumamoto (A)
- May 6th – Matsumoto Yamaga (H)
- May 13th – Oita Trinita (A)
- May 19th – Omiya Ardija (A)
- May 26th – Albirex Niigata (H)
Looking forward to: Matsumoto Yamaga. There’s no getting around it; May is a hard month. Three “big” teams, a very talented Oita side, and a long trip to Kumamoto. Personally, I consider Matsumoto Gifu’s true “derby” game. It feels like it, the atmosphere feels like it, and it is played like it. Add in the fact that I’m still annoyed that Matsumoto forced Gifu to change their kit in last year’s game in Gifu, and…yeah. I’m looking forward to their visit.
Well, at least you can tell who Gifu’s goalkeeper is. After that, it’s a lottery.
- June 2nd – Mito Hollyhock (H)
- June 10th – Kamatamare Sanuki (A)
- June 17th – Machida Zelvia (H)
- June 23rd – Renofa Yamaguchi (H)
- June 30th – Montedio Yamagata (A)
Looking forward to: Machida Zelvia. Lots of potential “six pointers” here – of the bad, bottom of the table kind, not the play-off hunting kind. I enjoyed my trip to an absolutely freeeeeeeezing Machida last year, but have never seen them win against Zelvia at home. Hopefully that changes in June.
- July 8th – Ehime FC (H)
- July 15th – Ventforet Kofu (A)
- July 21st – Yokohama FC (A)
- July 25th – Kamatamare Sanuki (H)
- July 29th – Oita Trinita (H)
Looking forward to: Ventforet Kofu. I’ve never been to Kofu, and I know the Chuo Bank Stadium doesn’t look like much, but I’m positively excited about this trip. They should be one of the favourites to return to J1 and they should be in a pretty decent position come this point in the season. On the minus side, it might be a little early for one of their funky, summer themed kits. Shame.
- August 4th – Tochigi SC (A)
- August 11th – Kyoto Sanga (H)
- August 19th – Roasso Kumamoto (H)
- August 26th – Machida Zelvia (A)
Looking forward to: Kyoto Sanga. Last year’s home game against Sanga was an interesting one, one that resulted in a fully deserved, if nervous, 3-2 win. Kyoto always bring lots of supporters, and hopefully they’ll play some better football this time around. Tulio will still be a big draw for local fans.
- September 1st – Omiya Ardija (H)
- September 8th – Albirex Niigata (A)
- September 15th – Tokushima Vortis (A)
- September 23rd – Tokyo Verdy (H)
- September 30th – Zweigen Kanazawa (A)
Looking forward to: Omiya Ardija. A toss-up between the orange teams, but I want to see a potential shoot out between Omiya’s high octane (on paper at least) forward line and Gifu’s open & attractive style. Last time Omiya came to town, they promptly thumped us 5-0 – I want to see some semblance of a challenge to them.
- October 7th – Renofa Yamaguchi (A)
- October 13th – Fagiano Okayama (H)
- October 21st – Matsumoto Yamaga (A)
- October 28th – JEF United (H)
Looking forward to: Renofa Yamaguchi. Almost by default because I’ve already chose Yamaga & JEF for other months. According to the fixture list, this game will be played in Shimonoseki – not in Yamaguchi’s regular home stadium. I really like Shimonoseki, the port city at the tip of Japan’s main island. It has great seafood, especially fugu (blowfish) and it will probably be a very nice, slightly non-league-ish experience there.
- November 4th – Montedio Yamagata (H)
- November 11th – Mito Hollyhock (A)
- November 17th – Avispa Fukuoka (H)
Looking forward to: Montedio Yamagata. I would say I’m looking forward to the Fukuoka game, but the last. time Fukuoka visited us on the last day of the season, they won 4-1. I’m not looking forward to that. I have a soft spot for Yamagata and their supporters – the “Dewa Soul” banner, their Buddhist-monk like chants and their emotional “Somewhere over the rainbow” chorus please me. We owe them one after they did us over in the snow on the final day of last year.
Still one of my favourite photos. Yusuke Sudo against Yamagata from three years ago.
There’ll be more previews, analysis, articles as we go through the season. But for now, time to start planning those away trips!