It might seem like an age ago, but it is in fact just two weeks since Manabu Wakabayashi struck late on to claim a vital point for Omiya Ardija at Kawasaki Frontale in the Squirrels' last J1 fixture. The league campaign kicks off once again on Saturday, with a visit to fourth-placed Kashiwa Reysol - the first of a vital series of five games that are scheduled during June prior to the main mid-season break.
Ardija coach Robert Verbeek has saved his job for the time being, at least, having overseen a team that has picked up six points in the last four matches. The most likely formation for the Dutchman to adopt for the short visit to Chiba is presumably the now-familiar 4-5-1 with Kota Yoshihara and Chikara Fujimoto on either side of midfield and Enilton playing the lone striker role - although Yoshihara has been seen in training in more forward positions.
The injury to Daigo Kobayashi, meanwhile, seems to go away and come back again, making it difficult to predict with any certainty whether the Squirrels' key man is likely to get any playing time. This is despite his having given some indication that he hoped to return to the first team action this weekend, although defender Yasuhiro Hato would appear to be in line to make his way back into the starting line-up at the expense of young Terukazu Tanaka.
The Sun Kings may fundamentally be a strong, youthful team with a deal of energy and never-say-die spirit. Nevertheless, since losing and drawing their two Nabisco Cup Group Stage games with Ardija earlier on in the season, they have hit something of a patchy run of results, which has led to their having fallen off the pace set by leaders Gamba Osaka. After a flying start to the year, Kashiwa are now level on points with the likes of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Nagoya Grampus 8 - which alone would suggest that Verbeek's players can approach the match with some confidence.
Down at the foot of the division alongside Omiya, Yokohama FC face one of their toughest matches of the year away at Gamba; JEF United go to Yokohama F Marinos, while Oita Trinita host an improving Kashima Antlers. Surely a draw is therefore not out of the question for the Squirrels and, given the difficulty of the fixtures facing their relegation rivals, Ardija fans will hope that the slow climb away from the J1 basement can continue.