Omiya Ardija tomorrow start the most critical stage of the 2008 season, with the visit to Omiya Park of Kashiwa Reysol. The Squirrels' tumble to the fringes of the J1 relegation zone means that every point counts, especially when the fight to avoid the drop is as close as it is this year. And their next three games could hold the key to whether or not Ardija will be able to remain a top-flight team.
Klemen Lavric looks set to return after missing the 2-1 midweek defeat at Kashima Antlers through suspension. It's to be hoped that the more aggressive display against the 2007 champions can be carried over to Saturday's much more winnable encounter against the struggling Sun Kings.
But in order to pick up maximum points, the Squirrels need to present more of an attacking threat than they have done over the last few months. Despite the physical presence and aerial target offered by Lavric, they have found the net just six times in eleven games - and a continuation of this kind of run will no doubt see them in more danger of slipping towards the bottom two.
Following their 1-0 win over Omiya in mid-July, meanwhile, Reysol have themselves been on a disastrous run of four draws and six defeats in ten matches. The Squirrels will face a Kashiwa side weakened by the absence through suspension of a trio of first-teamers, including defenders Yohei Kurakawa and Yuzo Kobayashi. The pressure is more than ever on the likes of Chikara Fujimoto and Daigo Kobayashi to set up chances for Lavric bring about a crucial win.