What a difference three wins makes. Pulsating league triumphs against JEF United and Kawasaki Frontale - together with a low-key Emperor's Cup tie in which they eased past J2 side Cerezo Osaka - have seen the Squirrels resurrect a 2008 season that a matter of weeks ago appeared to be heading for disaster. Ardija somehow found the resilience to fight back from a goal down in a critical match with JEF, Klemen Lavric found acres of space to head in the winner against Cerezo and then lashed in a peach of a goal to claim three points at the expense of title challengers Frontale.
It's somehow hard to imagine that Yasuhiro Higuchi's previously lacklustre side would have been able to find the reserves of self-confidence necessary to overcome such potentially difficult opponents. But the likes of Chikara Fujimoto, Daigo Kobayashi and newcomer Taishi Tsukamoto have injected a much-needed urgency and attacking drive to Omiya's recent displays. Tsukamoto in particular deserves credit for coming into the team and making a huge difference in particular to the attacking threat on the right-hand side.
Having beaten J2-ers Cerezo two weeks ago, the Squirrels take on Nagoya Grampus in Saturday's Emperor's Cup Fifth Round with Ardija's recent form very much the better of the two. Grampus, who have spent most of the season in the top three in J1, squeezed past neighbours FC Gifu in the Fourth Round and in the league are without a win in half a dozen matches - stretching back to the end of September. The goals have dried up for the Red Whales, only midfielder Yoshizumi Ogawa having found the net in three games, while key forward Keiji Tamada is away on international duty.
With keeper Seigo Narazaki injured, Omiya have a good opportunity to put one over on a Grampus team that have done the double against them in the league. The Emperor's Cup may not be a priority for Higuchi and his team, but a fourth consecutive victory would surely enable the Squirrels to continue the momentum that has developed since defeating JEF. Then, when it really counts against Albirex Niigata, Ardija can have the confidence they need to succeed in their fight against the drop.