Amidst all this talk of the end of the season, the Squirrels and coach Toshiya Miura have been preparing for tomorrow's Emperor's Cup quarter final tie against Kashima Antlers, to be staged in Sendai. After the extra time defeat of Nagoya Grampus 8 in the last round, Omiya will need to raise their game to get past an Antlers side that achieved a brace of comfortable 2-0 wins in the league meetings between the two sides. Moreover, the squad's attacking options are down to the bare bones after the departures of Leandro and Tuto.
But nonetheless, after a broadly successful season, the Ardija camp is a happy one as the close season proper looms just a few days away. "The players have had a bit of a break since the Nagoya game and the mood is good and relaxed now," said Miura. "As for Kashima, well, they're the type of team that play at a good level for the J-League and as such we have to learn to compete with clubs like that. It's a one-off game in the Emperor's Cup, though, so we're looking to win and go to the next round."
"The important thing is to play to our strengths," commented Masato Saito. "That means a well-organised defence that moves quickly into attack. I think we can create chances and win the game." Defender Daisuke Tomita agreed, though, that Kashima presented one of the toughest possible challenges to the men in orange. "The two leagues games against them were amongst our most difficult of the season and we could definitely tell that they were at a higher level than other clubs.
"But to compete with Kashima, we have to have our concentration levels at their best - their first touch is good throughout the side and they're quick to capitalise on any knockdowns. We've approached the training for this match with everyone feeling that we want to go on and win the tournament if we can. It would ba a fantastic Christmas present for the fans and everyone connected with the club."