GGOA will begin this preview by trying to look for some positives going into Saturday's match with Yokohama F Marinos. Despite Omiya Ardija's alarming downturn in form following on from the win over Urawa Reds, it is bizarrely not too difficult to find at least one reason to be cheerful for the Squirrels' fans. For the fact is that Marinos have yet to register a win in any of the five league meetings between the two teams since Ardija were promoted to J1 at the end of the 2004 season. Omiya also emerged undefeated from the pair of Nabisco Cup games with the Sailors earlier this year.
The reason for this unlikely statistic might be found in Marinos' recent encounters with Kashiwa Reysol and Urawa, in which they had a reasonable amount of possession but were unable to break down two teams with solid defences. Given that a relatively strong back four has long been the foundation of Omiya's tactical approach, this could explain why a defensive, counter-attacking formation - ironically much criticised by Ardija supporters this week, following on from ineffectual captain Chikara Fujimoto's expressions of support for this style of play - may actually pay dividends for the Squirrels at the Nissan Stadium on Saturday.
Key midfielder Koji Yamase, scorer of an alarming eleven goals this season, returns from suspension for Marinos, although Norihisa Shimizu - who began the season as a reserve but has come into the team since the re-start in August - is now unavailable. Team news for Omiya, however, is not good; there is still no information on the squad's main long-term injury victim, keeper Hiroki Aratani, who broke his arm in the home game between the sides three months ago.
Underperforming star midfield man Daigo Kobayashi is also likely to be out, having gone off injured against Jubilo Iwata and then not appearing in Saturday's defeat at the hands of JEF United. It's barely conceivable that fans' favourite Yusuke Shimada may deputise, but Hayato Hashimoto will most likely get the nod, in spite of his dreadful recent performances. After his sending off against JEF, Brazilian forward Denis Marques is suspended and top scorer Kota Yoshihara will presumably return to the starting line-up alongside Hiroshi Morita.
None of which is likely to provide much comfort for the gloomy Squirrel Nation. As Vendo Thefastlane has pointed out in his recent comment here on GGOA, there are four reasonably winnable games still to play - but Omiya's slump now bears all all the hallmarks of a team preparing for life in J2 next season. Furthermore, it is difficult to see where the confidence might come from even to get points against Yokohama FC. But both of Ardija's previous two J1 campaigns featured vital late bursts of form and, along with the team's consistent success against Marinos, this is the hope to which supporters must cling.