Following on from the weekend's 2-0 J1 win over Oita Trinita, the Squirrels travel on Saturday to Fukuari for a key clash with JEF United. Ardija go into the match with some confidence after the defeat of Trinita, given that Yasuhiro Higuchi defined an effective tactical plan to nullify the opposition's physical approach - which led to two Ardija players being substituted due to injury. The team executed it well and deserved the three points, with Denis Marques and unlikely goalscorer Masato Saito catching the eye in their first league starts of the year.
Surely Denis and Saito will retain their places against JEF in place of Pedro Junior up front and Yosuke Kataoka in central midfield - and although Tomoya Uchida would appear not to have picked up against Oita any kind of serious knock, there is no information at all about skipper Yoshiyuki Kobayashi, stretchered off in the same game. But the Squirrels would seem to have taken significant steps to improve last year's disastrous goalscoring record and even in the 2-1 loss at home to the impressive Nagoya Grampus came close to netting a second through Denis' long-range shot and a delicious chip by Daigo Kobayashi.
In other words, there is reason to believe that Omiya can continue their encouraging beginning to 2008 at Fukuari, where another win would conceivably see the team climb into the top six ahead of difficult matches over the next few weeks against Urawa Reds, Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F Marinos. From a JEF perspective, however, Josip Kuze's new-look team have struggled so far this season and they go into the Ardija game second from bottom of the J1 standings. Crushed in their last outing by a rampant Kashima and without a victory to their name, the Chiba outfit will be considering this a must-win match - a chance to kick-start their 2008 campaign and an opportunity for the likes of close-season Omiya transfer target Seiichiro Maki to add to the team's meagre total of three goals scored in five fixtures.
A 1-1 draw at home to a Leandro-less Vissel Kobe probably marks JEF's high point of the year so far, given that their goalless game at Gamba Osaka came at a time when Gamba were suffering from an early-spring chill. The arrival during the close season of Kuze was generally held by Chiba fans to be a step forward after the departure of Amar Osim, but the departure of most of the team's high profile players has led to the new coach having to develop his own side with very little time. As a consequence it has not been a surprise to see JEF recording poor results - which increases the pressure to pick up points against the Squirrels.