For the second time in a week, Omiya Ardija find themselves taking on the team lying in fourth place in the current league table. Last weekend the Squirrels came out of their trip to Kashiwa Reysol with a goalless draw, bullish coach Robert Verbeek declaring afterwards that his team had controlled 75% of the play; on Saturday, it is the turn of Albirex Niigata to visit Komaba.
The Swans have risen to near the top of the group of ten or so teams just off the pace being set by league leaders Gamba Osaka. They come to Saitama having scored seven goals in their last two matches, including an impressive 4-2 win at Jubilo Iwata. Striker Edmilson, having joined the club from Palmeiras in 2004, has now notched up more than fifty goals for Albirex and is currently third on the list of 2007 J1 top scorers. He has a tally of eight for this year - the same number, of course, that the whole of the Omiya squad have managed between them in total in the league.
Marcio - evidently the shortest man in football - takes a free-kick vs Kobe
It's a stroke of luck for Ardija that Niigata front players Kisho Yano and Marcio will both be missing due to suspension - and if this weakens Niigata's attack, the wild inconsistency that saw Jun Suzuki's team crushed 6-0 at home by Yokohama F Marinos provides hope at the other end of the pitch, even for attacking lightweights like the Squirrels. Daigo Kobayashi's return to the Ardija starting eleven against Reysol was the inspiration for probably the best 45 minutes of football that Verbeek's team have played all year, but despite Ardija's domination, the Sun Kings' defence - the meanest in J1, with just eleven conceded all season - were able to keep Kota Yoshihara and co at bay.
There is, though, some kind of momentum building around Omiya, with Daigo back in action and the team's five-game unbeaten run providing a huge confidence boost for the fight against relegation. The Squirrels' star man undoubtedly has a lot of pressure on his shoulders as a player who not only is required to create chances for his team-mates but to score goals off his own bat. Nevertheless, the way he performed at times against Kashiwa suggests that this is a challenge with which he is keen to get to grips.
Ball, meet Sakurai. Sakurai, ball
It would be a shock if Robert Verbeek were to change his team for Saturday evening's match, with the one probable exception of Terukazu Tanaka returning in place of the suspended Yasuhiro Hato, but no injuries have been reported this week. Despite Albirex's lofty league position, then, this looks like a winnable game for Omiya. The question is, can Daigo Kobayashi light the spark that will bring goals to the team and joy to the Squirrel Nation.