One In The Eye For The Sailor Men? - Marinos Preview
It's an exhausting old time for Omiya Ardija players, supporters and blog writers alike at the moment - for no sooner have the team won their first J-League point of 2007 than they must refocus their attentions once again upon the Group Stage of the Nabisco Cup. Still, it's a competition that has thus far provided the team with their most positive moments of the season, and another win against Yokohama F Marinos on Wednesday will see the Squirrels virtually assured of a place in the knock-out phase.
Three weeks ago, Daigo Kobayashi's header past Daijiro Takakuwa gave Omiya a priceless, confidence-boosting win - but the Marinos side that were defeated that night at Mitsuzawa have made some significant modifications to their approach in the intervening period and are unlikely to be easy opponents in the return fixture. Coach Hiroshi Hayano has since met with some success having altered his team's formation from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 style, most notably introducing 22-year-old Yukihiro Yamase into the left of the midfield.
Happy times for Marinos as they beat S-Pulse in the Nabisco Cup
This modified team has both drawn against and beaten Shimizu S-Pulse in the Nabisco Cup and gained a good 3-1 win at Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the league. Hideo Oshima has emerged as the danger man, picking up three goals in four games before the wheels came off the rejuvenated Marinos express at the weekend. Nevertheless, a 2-0 league defeat to high-flying Kashiwa Reysol can to a great extent be put down to a baffling refereeing decision that denied the Sailors an equaliser after Reysol had gone into an early lead.
It's to be hoped, though, that Omiya Ardija are also not the same side as they were when the teams met three weeks ago. Robert Verbeek pronounced himself pleased with a single point at Kashima on Saturday, pointing out that his team have two wins, two draws and one defeat in their last five games. But goals have continued to be the team's main problem and the absence on Wednesday through suspension of Kota Yoshihara would seem to give the green light to an all-Brazilian Salles / Enilton partnership up front - if, that is, one assumes that Daigo Kobayashi's mysterious injury still makes him unavailable for selection.
Fan rivalry at Kashima Stadium
In the centre of midfield, Naoya Saeki is suspended and Masato Saito injured, suggesting that Yosuke Kataoka may move out of the back four to partner Yoshiyuki Kobayashi. The most likely duo to appear at the heart of the Squirrels defence is therefore Daisuke Tomita and a fortunately returned Leandro. Half an eye may well be on next Saturday's crucial J1 clash with Nagoya Grampus 8 - but beating Marinos and racking up some goals in the process will do Verbeek's team no harm whatsoever.