First, a shout-out to those who have commented so far! I’m adding links to the blogroll as I get them so feel free to get in touch or suggest blogs I haven’t listed yet.
Tomorrow night finds FC Tokyo returning to Ajinomoto Stadium (yeah, I said Kokuritsu in my last post, whoops) as the home team to face Jubilo Iwata in the Group B Preliminary Round of the Nabisco Cup.
The momentum seems to be on FC Tokyo’s side as they’re coming in on a streak of two consecutive division wins, including Saturday’s climactic victory against Verdy and a win against newcomers Consadole Sapporo. Jubilo, on the other hand, has lost two in a row, falling 2-1 to both Consadole and the Urawa Reds, and is plagued by reports of discord among the players. Additionally, FC Tokyo has already defeated the Flycatchers (yes, I looked this up, that is their mascot, although I sincerely hope that’s not how the fans refer to themselves) once this season on the Nabisco away leg. Jubilo is currently at 13th place in J1, while FC Tokyo sits at 7th.
Although it’s only a preliminary qualifier on a weeknight, I expect a stronger than average turnout of Gasheads, buoyed by the result of the Tokyo Derby match, and a token showing by the dedicated Iwata fans, but the decibel level in Ajinomoto should be significantly lower than it was on Saturday night. Good thing for me, as I’ll have class on Thursday morning and I can’t afford to kill my throat.
FC Tokyo will likely play a slightly more conservative game, as the Verdy match was a bruising affair and the team has to save its strength for Saturday’s home match against Kawasaki Frontale, which remains a dangerous side despite their weaker than expected start. On offense, I expect Otake to start on the field after coming off the bench in Saturday’s match, but he’ll get replaced sometime in the second half if Tokyo gets a comfortable lead as his speed and agility will be a necessity against Kawasaki. After getting pulled out of the F. Marinos game and benched against Sapporo, Hirayama was a replacement in the Verdy match and may have proven to coach Hiroshi Jofuku that he’s stopped being, to put it delicately, a whiny bitch. Only time will tell. Hanyu was pulled from the Verdy game with a leg injury and will probably come on from the bench if he makes an appearance, but he’ll more than likely be ready for Saturday. Cabore and Akamine will likely both get playing time, although it’s a fair question as to whether they’ll both start on the field.
On the defensive end, Moniwa may make a return to the lineup following a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Verdy game, and I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Bruno get some playing time after his spirited performance against Consadole two weeks ago. Rookie Nagatomo, who “scored” the winner against Verdy, has consistently performed well on the defensive end and will probably get a start.
So far this season FC Tokyo has run a 4-3-2-1 position with Cabore as striker, but against Verdy ran a 4-3-1-2 that turned into a 4-3-3 when Otake was substituted. These formations seemed to suit them so I think they’ll continue to tinker with a stronger attack.
Oh, and a Random Game Fact: Jubilo’s slogan for this year is, I shit thou not, “Hungrrrrry!”. If that’s not a reason to cheer against them, I don’t know what is.
In other Group B action, Shimizu S-Pulse hosts “Tokyo” Verdy in Nihondaira. Verdy is 0-1-1 so far in the prelims and needs a win to have any sort of shot at advancing to the elimination stage, while Shimizu holds a one-point lead over FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata. So, best of luck to the S-Pulse in at least drawing. See you tomorrow night with the match report!