|July 12th 2009, 6PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo)|
Competition Record: FCT 4 wins, 3 draws, Nagoya Grampus 6 wins
Haven't written one of these in a while, have I…
Both FC Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus started the season with high expectations yet failed to meet them; the difference between the two teams is that Tokyo seems to have regained its footing while Nagoya continues to flounder in the middle of the table, closer to the danger zone than any team should be comfortable with. While Tokyo has recovered from its slow start to the season (-game winning streak including two Cup matches), Nagoya is wearing itself ragged by participating simultaniously in J1, the ACL, and the Nabisco Cup. If the orcas want to stay in contention for J1 they may have to make some very tough choices soon about which titles they're going to put effort into chasing.
Speaking of the Nabisco Cup, FC Tokyo is in the Round of 8 as well; their opponent? Nagoya. The teams will play again at Ajinomoto Stadium on Wednesday evening. I'm not even sure if Grampus is planning on going home in the 2-day interim. In any case although whoever wins Sunday's match may have a psychological advantage, but both teams will be able to read each other's strategy and adjust accordingly for the rematch.
Though billed as an epic confrontation between two of the league's highest scorers (Davi at the top of the table with 10 goals, and Ishikawa right behind him with 9), that storyline took a (not quite so) surprising turn when it was announced that Davi had been sold by Grampus to a club team in Qatar. While he will still play the next three matches, a pending medical check will surely keep the Brazillian from making any bold challenges. Never mind the fact that his heart may not be into helping Nagoya win as much as it will be into considering how to spend all of the petrodollars he's to recieve. Tokyo has dodged an additional bullet in that Nagoya's new Aussie striker Joshua Kennedy won't be in the lineup until the 18th.
Ishikawa, on the other hand, is scoring goals so phenomenal that even traditionally staid Japanese announcers are showing signs of excitement. Tokyo's offensive strategy seems to be “use long passes to break through the opponent's second line, push the back line into the box, get the ball to Nao at the top of the box, and watch him send a picture-perfect volley somewhere in the vicinity of “between the crossbar and the goalkeeper's outstretched hands”. And it's working. oh lawdy is it working.
On defense, Konno and Bruno have teamed up to bring stability at the CB position and were successful in shutting down Vissel's attacks last week. Yonemoto is also contributing thoroughly on defense; the young star seems to be in 3 places at once on many occasions.
Tokyo's starting lineup has remained essentially unchanged since league play resumed; given how much the lineup was being tweaked on a weekly basis in the first few weeks of the season this is perhaps the best sign that things have finally calmed down in the capital city.
Nagoya may have broken a 4-game losing streak against Osaka last week, but they didn't win the game so much as a bad goalkeeping blunder lost it for Gamba. Tokyo is arguably the hottest team in the league right now and they will more than likely continue their winning streak. If Tokyo can sweep their games this week (a reasonable possibility), it will be a bold statement that the Gasmen are in the running for a title in 2009.
This will be the first match at Ajinomoto Stadium in a month and a half; improvements and repairs have been made to the pitch and the irrigation system.