Great Time To Take On Bogey Team - Hiroshima Preview
Well, to be more honest this is actually a distinctly unfortunate point in the season for an underachieving and underfire Omiya Ardija team to be taking on a side that has won all four league fixtures between the two since Ardija gained promotion to J1. Sanfrecce Hiroshima may have taken only two points from their last three games, but their ever-dangerous front pairing of Ueslei and Hisato Sato should be more than enough to set alarm bells ringing for Robert Verbeek's fragile team.
Together the two have already notched a remarkable twelve league goals, the burly Brazilian currently the division's top marksman with seven. But this is merely a continuation of one of the most impressive scoring records in the country over recent seasons, to produce a tally that has now gone past the 100 mark for the 35-year-old. Japanese international Sato, a decade younger, might also be more diminutively built than his partner but is nevertheless arguably one of the most dangerous finishers that the J-League has to offer. And in Yuichi Komano, he and Ueslei have a team-mate single-mindedly aiming to provide them with service and goalscoring opportunities.
The likes of Daigo Kobayashi, Chikara Fujimoto and most especially overlapping full-backs Yasuhiro Hato and Takuro Nishimura would do well to take a leaf out of the book of Komano, for Ardija - so feeble in front of goal this season - may just have better luck in finding the net if the team's wide players are able to get the ball to strikers Salles and Kota Yoshihara. This is because Mihailo Petrovic's Sanfrecce team have one of the leakiest defence's in J1, Jubilo Iwata being the last to benefit from their generosity in a 4-2 win at the weekend.
So if Hiroshima present to their opponents a contrasting challenge - a weak defence with an explosive front line - the Squirrels are stuck playing the same old song. For it appears that if the Omiya back four makes any kind of slip-up, the offensive members of the side consistently find it extremely difficult to create and take chances. The feeling is growing that if Verbeek's team go a goal behind, it is more or less "game over". The Dutchman claims in interviews always to speak positively to his players and it is this mentality - and tactical approach - which Omiya need to adopt in matches such as that against Hiroshima.
Otherwise, no matter how error-prone the Sanfrecce defence, Ardija will not be in a position to exploit any opportunities that come there way; while at the other end, Sato and Ueslei will be waiting to pounce.