Ardija make the short journey to Chiba on Thursday for a night game with the Sun Kings of Kashiwa Reysol. And the two teams will be approaching the fixture in contrasting form, for although Reysol went down 1-0 to Nagoya Grampus at the weekend, their recent results have been excellent: they were previously undefeated for nine matches, their last loss coming at home to Shimizu S-Pulse at the end of April.
The Squirrels, on the other hand, have been beaten in their two most recent games - against Vissel Kobe and Jubilo Iwata - a common denominator of both being a woeful first-half display. Earlier in the season Ardija proved themselves good at coming from behind to take the points, as at Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale, but constantly having to chase the game is a dangerous situation to be in for a team such as Omiya with relatively limited attacking options and a midfield that seems always to find it hard to create chances and support the strikers.
That said, new signing Klemen Lavric is the kind of figure who potentially can have a major impact upon the Squirrels' fortunes. The Slovenian international came within an ace of grabbing a somewhat undeserved point against Jubilo Iwata, as his towering header in the dying seconds was checked off for a questionable offside. Ardija have to learn how to support such a player and make the most of his characteristics, but a superbly accurate free kick delivery from Hayato Hashimoto was a step in the right direction - especially when one remembers how few chances Omiya have created this year from set pieces.
Who might step aside to make room for Lavric in the starting line-up as an interesting question. It is difficult to imagine star performer Denis Marques being dropped at present and coach Yasuhiro Higuchi persists with Kota Yoshihara up front - although many fans are now arguing that his pacy running style would better serve the team on the wing rather than occupying one of the main striker roles.
In midfield, Daigo Kobayashi has already been omitted by Higuchi as he seeks to recover the form that two years ago got him onto the fringes of the international set-up - but now, sadly for the player and for the team, seems long gone. There are currently questions being asked of the attitude of ex-skipper Chikara Fujimoto, who was booked against Vissel Kobe and has drawn the wrath of Ardija supporters as a consequence of what is perceived as an unsatisfactory explanation; Kobe fans, too, expressed their disappointment that a former Vissel hero can have behaved so poorly.
But given that the replacement of any of these players with Lavric would mean a serious modification of the Squirrels' tactical approach, Higuchi has a serious decision ahead of him. Central defender Masahiro Koga will be missing for Kashiwa, after being sent off against his former team Nagoya; will the physical threat presented by Omiya's new star be given the opportunity to exploit any uncertainty in Koga's absence?