If a full league season can ever be said to be influenced by the result of one single match, it might be possible to argue that this was the case in the J1 campaign of 2007. On 1 September, all-powerful league leaders Urawa Reds - who were rushing in the direction of their second consecutive championship crown - encountered relegation-threatened neighbours Omiya Ardija.
At a pulsating Saitama Stadium, in-form Reds were expected to administer a further nail in the coffin of an Ardija side apparently heading back to J2. But Satoru Sakuma's under-fire Squirrels side fought tooth and nail against a curiously lacklustre Urawa. Goalkeeper Koji Ezumi shone for arguably the first time in an Omiya shirt and the central defensive pairing of Leandro and Daisuke Tomita ensured that the Reds' route to goal was kept firmly blocked.
On the hour mark, Leandro surged upfield with the ball, shrugging off a tentative challenge from Marcus Tulio Tanaka before slotting a deliciously weighted through-pass to striker Hiroshi Morita. The Urawa back line was sliced open within a matter of seconds and Morita timed his run perfectly to score a sensational winning goal.
For Urawa, this defeat was the first chink in their armour - the first indication, in fact, that Holger Osieck's team lacked the flair and the fotoballing intelligence to remain top of the pile. And, as everyone knows, Kashima Antlers ended up storming to the title as Reds crumbled in the latter stages of the campaign.
But for Omiya, the derby triumph provided the players with a huge boost in confidence, which subsequently enabled them to gather just enough points to climb above Sanfrecce Hiroshima and so avoid the drop. In the intervening eight months, from an Ardija perspective Yasuhiro Higuchi has come in as coach and instigated changes in the way that the team has played - and so Omiya go into Sunday's clash with Urawa as a top-half-of-the-table side.
Reds may have hit good form after a disastrous start, but at the same time Ardija have rarely gone into a derby game playing so well: ignoring the second string's 0-4 drubbing at Yokohama F Marinos, Denis Marques last weekend starred in the 4-2 defeat of JEF United, while in the previous fixture Masato Saito fired in two superb strikes to beat Oita Trinita.
Whisper it, but this might just be an Omiya team that knows how to score a goal or two. But while a good Ardija should on paper have little chance against a good Urawa, as last September's match demonstrated, strange things can happen in the cauldron of a Saitama derby.