Coming off the back of Wednesday evening's thrilling win at Yokohama F Marinos, Omiya Ardija are ostensibly in fine fettle. Eighth in the table, with six wins in the last eight games and Kota Yoshihara having burst onto the scene in the most dramatic of circumstances, all appears to be rosey enough in the orange half of Saitama. But the injury sustained in midweek by Yukio Tsuchiya - who has rapidly become a key member of the team, with not a hint of the disciplinary problems that dogged last season at Kashiwa Reysol - could hardly have come at a worse time, potentially weakening the Squirrels defence at just the time that twelve-goal Juninho and the rest of the potent Kawasaki Frontale attack come visiting.
Admittedly, Kawasaki's form lately has been somewhat more patchy than earlier in the season when they led the division - but even so, while Ardija were winning in Yokohama on Wednesday, Frontale were nevertheless putting four past an improving Nagoya Grampus 8 side. It's been a remarkable achievement by Takashi Sekizuka and his players, who have transformed themselves into title contenders since winning promotion to J1 at the same time as Omiya. Famously built on their goalscoring prowess though their team's progress is, the Kawasaki defence is scarcely more watertight than that of the Squirrels, whose fans will be hoping fervently that goal hero Yoshihara will be given the chance to impress despite the availability following suspension of Hiroshi Morita.
"I'm a bit tired having played the full ninety minutes against Marinos," he commented, "but having scored the winning goal in that match has given me such a boost. Since coming to Omiya, I haven't had that many opportunities due to my own fitness and other circumstances, but contributing to the victory in midweek has finally helped me to feel like a real member of the team. As for Kawasaki, their attack is a real threat and if we don't keep a tight grip on that area of the field, we've no chance of beating them. The fact that Tsuchiya is out has to be a worry, but we've a good squad and if we can start well, keep a clean sheet and get the opening goal, we can go on and win the game."