Hot on the heels of Saturday's incredible 4-2 win over JEF United comes a mid-week fixture for Omiya Ardija, as the 2008 Nabisco Cup campaign returns in the shape of a trip to Yokohama F Marinos. The two teams met earlier on in the competition and ground out a rather inconclusive goalless draw at Omiya Park at the end of March, in which the Marinos arguably had the better chances while Yasuhiro Higuchi's new-look Squirrels team on balance had more of the ball.
Since that match, Ardija have tied at Shimizu S-Pulse thanks to a last-minute penalty save by Koji Ezumi, been beaten by Nagoya Grampus in a game that again saw Ezumi shine and then gone on to beat both JEF and Oita Trinita. After the experience of last season, seven points from four fixtures can be considered a greatly encouraging tally for Higuchi - but such a positive achievement still needs to be balanced with the fact that the draw against S-Pulse was so nearly a defeat and the victory against Chiba was so nearly squandered.
A 2-0 lead gained by two devastatingly incisive plays by Denis Marques was followed by a lacklustre second half Omiya performance and when JEF striker Tatsunori Arai hooked the ball past Koji Ezumi four minutes from time, it looked as if the Squirrels may well get nothing at all from the game. Yosuke Kataoka's superb long-range shot and Pedro Junior's mazy run and clipped finish to an extent constituted a very lucky escape.
And so Ardija need a disciplined performance against Marinos, whose recent J1 results have included comfortable defeats of FC Tokyo and Kashiwa Reysol and losses to high-flying Kashima Antlers and Nagoya Grampus. There's no doubt that the Sailors' midfield star Koji Yamase in particular has the ability to exploit any uncertainty in the Omiya back line - and if Ardija lose the game, they will very likely be eliminated from the tournament.